The new ‘9-5’: an undergrad on working from home

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by Gabbie Wright |

“Affecting every aspect of daily modern life” | Kate Trifo/Unsplash

The corona virus pandemic has annihilated both the vision and reality of 2020, no doubt affecting every aspect of daily modern life far beyond the immediate tragedies of its case and death toll. From grocery shopping, to seeing friends and family; across all job industries and the oil market, with prices crashing to the lowest in two decades. Covid-19 has, from the outset, devastated the “norm” and brought about new challenges for everyone everywhere, which in this current climate of change, could offer a silver-lining.

For me, as a twenty-year-old who had just finished her second-year at uni, it was less than ideal to see not only the long-awaited social lineup of the summer entirely abandoned (RIP Glasto 50), but more soberly the sheer rate of furloughed staff and the loss of any fresh job opportunities for the season to make up the overdraft. After applying to many internships throughout November and attending interviews well into the Christmas period, it seemed bleak when one by one the various companies halted their programmes altogether in the wake of the virus. 

Luckily, having applied to the Pathways Programme through the university itself, I was able to connect with a charity in Exeter who assessed me and ultimately hired me for a two-week remote internship within their marketing sector. The placement itself was huge success and inspired me amidst the crisis, offering a look to my career in two or three years when this moment in time will be merely a nightmare gone-by. This said, whilst undertaking my remote internship I acquainted myself with many of the techniques being used to replace face-to-face working within the marketing sector and beyond. Ultimately, one the most valuable aspects of the placement was seeing the ways in which a company can adapt to a socially-distanced workforce, and consequently how it maintains both quality operations and a spirit of team work ethic despite colleagues being some two-hundred miles apart. I wanted to discuss some of the key principles emerging, and how viable they are in a look to the future of business worldwide. 

Advancing technology

Firstly, and perhaps above all, is the shift in technology usage. In this day and age, we have access to an endless stream of alternative means of communication; as long as tech has been around there has also been the scepticism of whether it is as good as an organic person to person interaction. If Covid-19 has demonstrated anything, it is that technology brings people together even when they are physically isolated. Microsoft Teams was the most impactful software to be introduced to me, with virtually all our work being uploaded, downloaded, and discussed as a group through the various call and meetings functions it provides. I think for many businesses more generally the technology we have available to us has been best utilised during this period of distanced working, with software like Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox and Zoom! paving the way.

“Technology brings people together even when they are physically isolated” | Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Whilst having to adjust initially, be that through giving online lectures, scheduling virtual meetings or unexpected WiFi interruptions, I think, long-term, businesses are capable of maintaining productive working environments with half or even the large majority of the workforce without the traditional office setting in light of the technological advancements we have seen. 

For companies that are heavily reliant on manual labour or physical infrastructures for production, a move online can’t simply replace this, but it is offering new opportunities to get up and running again in some instances that bodes well for potential development.

Social media

 “97% of small businesses use social media to attract new customers” 

Particularly for the marketing and media industries, working from home is a very plausible alternative to office-based working, whether you’re a start-up or an international franchise, due to the nature of the labour itself which is largely online and/or for social media circulation. In the last few years, social media marketing has proven to be the most accessible and widely beneficial form of advertising as companies directly engage with the customers through the mediums they are using all day every day. Hand in hand with technological advancements, E-commerce has also grown exponentially with boutiques and conglomerates alike capitalising on online sale-days, promos, and next day shipping in order to compete for the tech-savvy generation of consumers. It therefore makes sense that many businesses would move to remote working, given that the services themselves are, at least partially, remote.

The manual labour systems of these companies, that include packaging and postage, in turn become more viable as staff that are able to work remotely free up available space within the immediate working environment, allowing social distancing and other safety requirements to be maintained for those that are needed on-site.

“Distance planning for those that remain within the office is proving to be essential” | Daria Shevtsova/Unsplash

Office interiors that suit isolation and a working environment

This distance planning for those that remain within the office is proving to be essential. The charity I interned for had only twenty full-time employees on site within the two-hundred person organisation. The rest of the workers would come in part-time or volunteer at different locations when needed to limit the number of people in the small head office at any one time.

As well as this, cleaning and sanitation of working environments and the health and hygiene of employees is gaining vital attention, that will only improve the working conditions for many staff across the world as businesses have no choice but to consider their standards of functionality at all levels. 

Overall

My internship was an immensely insightful experience and a lot of fun. As well as learning more about the marketing sector, it was reassuring to see that the industry I’m most interested in as an undergraduate is adapting so well to new modes of operating, and I think it bodes well for other industries across the globe moving forward. Some concluding thoughts I had have been summarised below as a pros and cons of socially-distanced working:

Pros include not only those mentioned above, but more menial day-to-day aspects of a typical 9-5 job such as:

Reduced transport costs

Better accommodation of childcare commitments

Opportunity to diversify working hours

Cons, or current issues arising from distanced or reduced on-site working include:

Lack of immediate enjoyment and/or support

Productivity

Technical difficulties

I think it will be interesting to see how businesses combat these problematic aspects of a socially-distanced workforce in the near future, especially if working from home really is to become the new ‘9-5’ for many.

“Businesses have no choice but to consider their standards of functionality at all levels” | Shridhar Gupta/Unsplash

For more information on current Government Guidelines regarding Coronavirus please see the following links: 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ 

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