What happens when the entire world is shaken up by an outside force? We adjust, adapt and overcome. Here more about how the graduate community has dealt in these unprecedented times as I discuss the pro’s and cons of working from home.
In technology, or more specifically when talking about innovation there’s one word that gets used over and over and that’s disruption. When an industry, market or product is shaken up due to the efforts of an individual or organisation changing the game forcing the market to adjust, adapt and overcome.
So, what happens when the entire world is shaken up by an outside force? We adjust, adapt and overcome. It’s true that this year has been unprecedented, we’ve experienced change on a scale that we never imagined, and we simply don’t know how the future looks. While part of me wants things to go back to the way they were before, the other part sees this as a great opportunity to improve the way we work and collaborate.
My role as a graduate consultant means that my work is client based, before the pandemic I was travelling around the UK, staying in hotels and my life Monday to Thursday was on the road. I’d travel home on a Thursday evening and work from home on Fridays, it’s been that way since I joined so naturally, I’d built my life around this way of working and I enjoyed it. It sounds glamorous, and to some degree it is but you quickly realise the downsides to this way of living and working.
This is a first-hand account of some of the challenges I’ve been through during lockdown as a graduate forced to adapt to this change, some of the benefits of working remotely and how I’ve kept myself motivated through this transition.
Challenges of lockdown
When the lockdown was announced the client that I was working for at the time was in an industry that had to keep going so me and my colleagues did too. Below are the top three challenges I had to deal with during this transition.
No face-to-face communication
Communication is as much about body language and expression as it is about talking. Lockdown made me realise how much I valued the conversations over coffee and just being able to walk over to someone’s desk and have a chat. You get more out of these interactions than you can get through skype. Building new relationships with people is more difficult without being able to physically meet them so you need to find new ways to leave a lasting impression.
Difficult to switch off
The office is setup to accommodate work so naturally it’s a good place to do that. I’ve always tried to get as much work done in the office as possible so that I could enjoy my time at home and switch off for the weekend. When I started to work remotely full-time the distinction blurred and initially, I found myself working more hours, being at my laptop more often and finding it difficult to switch off. I had to discipline myself to work set hours and take breaks.
I’m close to my family, but like many others being under the same roof 23/7 for three months and working at the same time wasn’t always easy. I had to work on the kitchen table which was all fine until they wanted to come in, make a coffee and have a chat 5 minutes before I had a client meeting. After a week or two they learned that if my headset was on my head I was working, and they were kind enough to be quiet around me if that was the case.
Benefits of remote working
As I mentioned a part of me wants us to use this opportunity to improve the way we collaborate and work. Here’s the top three benefits I noticed as I transitioned from working away to working from home.
It’s true that (or at least it was) work starts the moment you walk out the door. The commute is an extension of your workday, there’s ways to use this time effectively so that it’s not wasted but still, the lockdown has proven this to be an unnecessary use of time. My routine has become more stable with no long Monday and Thursday commutes which has paid dividends in terms of my sleeping patterns, general routines and overall wellbeing.
Work more efficiently
In the office, especially if you work across multiple sites then getting to meetings takes time out of your day. Sometimes it seemed I was spending more time getting to meetings than I spent being productive. With meetings being digital now I haven’t had to spend additional time in the office to accommodate, freeing up my evenings to use as I see fit. Whether that’s going to the gym, dreaming of the day I can go on holiday again without fear of quarantine or dare I say it, putting in more hours to help meet a tight deadline.
Being able to work from anywhere (within reason)
The big word here is flexibility. I have a big extended family who live all over the UK some of whom I hadn’t gotten as much chance to see since I started working due to being constrained by the long commutes I was making. Working remotely means I can work from anywhere with a stable internet connection, so I’ve taken the opportunity to do just that.
What’s kept me motivated
As I write this, I’d say that I’m well-adjusted to working remotely and I’m reaping the rewards of doing that. This is the fifth month of working from home and I’ve learnt how to keep up the pace and balance my working life against my personal life. Here’s the top three things that’s helped me to stay motivated while working from home.
Bring the office home
What I mean by this is that as I mentioned earlier, the office is designed to accommodate working. I’ve found that doing everything I can to create a similar environment helps me get in the zone and stay there throughout the day. I’ve created a physical environment that gears me up for work in the same way the office does by using all the tools at home that I had there; monitors, stationary, workbooks, IT accessories and a comfy desk chair. I also stick to the same hours, avoid working from the sofa/bed and limit my distractions, i.e. I don’t work with the T.V. on.
My friends and colleagues
There was a short period during the start of lockdown when I started to feel disconnected, the buzz of the office was gone, and it was hard to discern what was going on around me. I realised how valuable the office noise was, the things you pick up making a coffee etc. I solved this simply by reaching out to people and having conversations over skype, it was clear other people were feeling the same way so it’s important to stay connected.
Using my extra time to do me
I found myself with more free time because working from home meant I was working more efficiently, spending less time physically moving places and didn’t have to commute. At the start I was using this additional time do more work without realising I was doing more than I needed to. When I realised that and started to use the extra time to focus on myself, I started to see the real benefits of working remotely so this is something I have continued to do post lockdown.
I’m a fair way through my graduate journey, so if your reading this and considering a career in consultancy I would encourage you not to be deterred by the current climate. Considering you’ve completed or are completing your degree you’ll be well geared up to remote working and using technology to collaborate, communicate and work. These are valuable skills and experiences that you can bring to the table from day one.
Capgemini’s worked hard to ensure that the graduate journey remains just as engaging, challenging and rewarding as it was when I started mine three years ago. Classroom training has been swapped out for instructor led online courses and E-learning, the graduate communities are just as strong and supportive as they ever were and whether remote working becomes the new normal or not, you’ll be a very welcome addition to the company.