Hi, I’m Florence and I just started a new apprenticeship program with Alphalake Ai. In this blog, I’m going to be bringing you both the good and bad from working and studying from home, starting a new job virtually as well as my evolving thoughts on the necessity of offices post-COVID.
New Job Nerves
Starting a new job seems to feel more daunting than it already is when you have the looming thought that you’re going to meet your new colleagues through little screens. Naturally, with a new job, you are bound to feel nervous, but you quickly learn that those feelings were misplaced and you are there for a reason.
My first month at Alphalake Ai has been full of information for me to take in- from new faces to new interfaces, a new job role, a new environment. I was quite worried about how this would play out virtually, but I ended up surprising myself with how strangely natural it felt. I can only speak for myself, but I think perhaps growing up with technology and having long-distance friendships has made this transition feel less alien than I initially perceived. Being virtual quite literally takes away the stress of familiarising yourself with a new office (and a commute!). There is also something strangely comforting about working from home, which I can’t quite explain.
Apprenticeships also come with a percentage of learning, so I had a whole new classroom I had to settle into virtually too! This one brought slightly more anxiety, but also benefits. I feel as if there is something innate in our virtual classroom that drives us all to want to be as much like a typical classroom as we can- maybe even better than a typical classroom?
Our teacher fully understands that a virtual classroom is entirely different from a live one. But she also knows how to adapt and nurture an environment that supports it, while reaping the benefits the platform has to offer. From a student side, I have also noticed that I have been more confident to contribute or ask questions during a lesson as I now can hide behind my computer screen and just type away in the chat- or a private message if I feel inclined. I think we have bonded as a class really well- and a lot faster than I expected.
However, the most interesting bit is that, although we are all doing the same training course, we all come from unique backgrounds and all of our employers are entirely different. It creates a very vibrant range of opinions and discussions in the classroom- a drawback might be that occasionally one student will have a lot of knowledge in a particular subject due to their job role, which is sometimes intimidating. But this is quickly mitigated as soon as the roles are switched.
Working from Home and Mental Health
I feel like I need to be expressing the “difficulties of working virtually” or “the lonely life of working from your living room”, but I don’t want to shine an overpowering negative light on virtual apprenticeships. However, it needs to be addressed that your social interactions drop dramatically. And when I say “social interactions”, I mean meeting someone in real life. You will probably agree when I say meeting someone over a screen is not the same. It’s even more important to take care of your mental and physical health when you work from home. Even in the one month I have been working, I’ve noticed a toll on my mental health as soon as I start neglecting it. This substantial issue is magnified further by intermittent lockdowns in the UK; however, I think working from home has far more benefits that make it worth it.
Rethinking the Office
With this all being said, it starts to make me question if working virtually helps us focus more? Or do we even need an office anymore? Or do we simply need to rethink the office?
If you ask yourself, “Where do I go when I really need to get tasks done?” You might say anything from your dining room table to a train, and some people might just need a quiet place. However, I don’t think many of us will instantaneously say “the office”.
It’s been less than a year since many of us made that forced jump to work from home. And yet the idea of working from an office seems so distant already. Does it work for everyone? No, but I am focusing on the fact that a large proportion of us prefer to work from home now. This is totally understandable. Everyone is different and in a traditional office, different things can offer different distractions; Not enough space?, a slow PC?, the temperature of the room, chatter, maybe a colleague microwaving a controversially smelling lunch?
Unsurprisingly, all of these issues are resolved when you can work from home, as soon as it is normalised, theoretically you could make your own custom work area, tailored to your exact needs and the way you work. Surprisingly, it has taken a whole pandemic for us to make this realisation.
So it’s strange to think, pre-COVID, that it was unquestioned in many companies to work from a specific office when the technology that allows us to do anything from anywhere has been around for years now. I’m not saying we need to ban offices, but I definitely think that COVID has made us rethink offices from being ‘workspaces’ to ‘collaboration hubs’. Which I think would complement working from home perfectly. I find this really exciting as we now may have a future prospect of working together more in the workplace than we ever have before- in a collaboration hub, thanks to COVID-19.
I hope you enjoyed my observations on starting a new job remotely during COVID - stay tuned for next month’s blog where I will be talking about my thoughts and experiences on exploring an industry I am new to and my second month at Alphalake AI.