LONDON – Rebekah Ingram’s remote internship came with a series of unexpected challenges: she doesn’t have a proper desk, her mother often calls her while she is working and her dog barks during video calls .
His situation will sound familiar to anyone who worked from home during the pandemic. The difference for Ingram is that she, like many other young people who have started working in the past 18 months, has not spent time in a traditional office. She speculates that remote working is “much more informal”.
“It’s kinda trippy because… you work but… you are in your own environment,” said the 22-year-old, who is an intern at the Like Minded Females Network, a global tech and entrepreneurship organization at non-profit in London.
Many 2020 graduates have left school and entered a world of turmoil, with limited employment prospects. Some job opportunities have been lost because companies canceled internships or froze hiring altogether. As restrictions have relaxed in many places, jobs have become easier to find, but work remains far from normal.
Importantly, many young workers say that they know they are missing something when their desk is made up of the four walls of their bedroom. They wish they were more likely to have daily social interactions with their coworkers, both for bonding camaraderie and for finding mentors.
Sohini Sengupta, 22, had an easy transition to remote work because she used to do it in school, but feels like she lacks a sense of community in her job .
“When I started working I took a look at my workplace website and could see pictures of them taking trips together, having fun at the pool table. in the office … something I haven’t had the chance to experience, ”said Sengupta, who lives in Calcutta, India and works as a production intern at India Today, a New Delhi-based media outlet.
Annabel Redgate, 25, a public relations officer at the TANK public relations agency in Nottingham, England, started her current job in February.
When the pandemic restrictions started to be lifted a few months ago, she started reaching out to colleagues to meet over drinks after work. Now TANK has started a phased return to the office, and it’s the social atmosphere she looks forward to the most.
“Public relations is a very personal industry, so I’m excited about the atmosphere in the office,” she said.
For Maya Goldman, a 23-year-old Washington, DC-based health journalist, starting her career remotely has meant struggling to set boundaries, a process she thinks she would have seen modeled by her bosses if she did. had worked in the office.
It was “hard to know when it was appropriate to tell my bosses that I was done for the night, or when I should have lunch and how long I should have lunch,” Goldman said.
Many employers recognize the need to help new remote workers feel welcome.
At 9 a.m., employees of Trevelino / Keller, an Atlanta-based marketing company, participate in “Spotify at 9,” where they all play the same song and talk about it on Slack. They also organized book clubs and virtually watched TED talks.
It’s part of an effort to ensure that “when you wake up every day in your first remote career, you feel like you’re part of a business and part of our culture”, said said Dean Trevelino, co-founder. of the firm.
Liza Streiff, CEO of Knopman Marks Financial Training, a financial education company in New York City, recently hosted a barbecue at her home, the first in-person event for the company since the pandemic.
Many of its employees were meeting in person for the first time. It was two of the youngest workers – an intern and another worker who recently joined full-time after an internship – who told Streiff “how much it meant to them”.
Companies also help employees take advantage of mentoring opportunities that they may feel they are missing out on.
Trevelino / Keller, Like Minded Females Network, and Knopman Marks have all implemented buddy programs during the pandemic, pairing new hires with more experienced employees they can turn to for advice and help them navigate their way. business.
Not all new employees feel like they’re missing out by working remotely. Many have found it easier to balance work and life when they don’t have to go to the office every day.
For Matthew Toale, a marketing apprentice at Find Your Flex, an employment agency in Britain, the shift from the pandemic to remote work has had another benefit: It has made networking more comfortable. As an introvert, he struggled at events and was much more successful in online networking.
Networking online “is a lot easier for me than getting into a face-to-face conversation head-first,” Toale said.
As the pandemic subsides, many companies may allow employees to continue working from home, at least part of the time.
Mabel Abraham, a professor at Columbia Business School, says there is no data yet available on the possible ramifications of so many young workers starting their careers remotely.
She said some might experience a disconnect with bosses and other older colleagues who have had a harder time adjusting to working remotely.
But Suneet Dua, product manager at accounting giant PwC US, the accounting firm’s giant, suspects the impact will be positive, both for building the resilience and adaptability of young workers as well as for technological advancements. which were carried out to allow remote work.
“This is the biggest benefit to our society that we can imagine that we are not even seeing right now,” he said. “(This) that we’re going to see in three to five years is going to be amazing.”
There has also been some buzz about remote working providing more opportunities for diversity, but Abraham warns that this can actually increase inequality.
This is because it can create a wedge between newly hired employees from different walks of life who may live far away and a core of existing workers who live closer and will eventually return to the office.
Grassroots workers “tend to be a more homogeneous group, maybe more masculine or whiter for example,” she said.
Sonya Barlow, founder of the Like Minded Females Network, hires people based on skills rather than resumes or experience, aware of the barriers to entry some groups may face.
“I tend to hire people who are new graduates or who have taken alternative education paths,” Barlow said.
One of those hires was Ingram, who worked in a grocery store at the start of the pandemic but dreamed of starting his own business.
Over the past few weeks, Ingram has finally had the chance to meet Barlow in person, work alongside him in a coworking space, or meet customers in coffeeshops.
She has found it refreshing to get away from her home office and hopes to gain the skills she will need to become a freelance business owner.
“I would love to get everything I can out of this internship,” she said.