Last March, many organizations were fortunate to continue on with business from their employee’s home offices. The shift from in-person work to virtual was monumental for some areas of work, while some were happy to just ditch their commutes. And for those of us who were students during all of the chaos, learning from home was a 180° change that altered our entire college experience.
Zoom university was the exact opposite of what motivated me as a student. I thrive via class participation, genuine human interaction, and in social environments. As a result, online class forever changed my appreciation for in-person life, both within work and academic settings as well as more casual, social ones as well.
In the spring of 2019, I was a media intern, covering Nordic skiing. This was an ideal position for me. I got to attend ski races, speak to people in person, take photographs, and then craft blogs in my personal work setting – usually the library or desks somewhere in an academic building on campus. Having the option to use public spaces helped me get into a more productive mindset and think creatively, much more than at home.
Things were drastically different for my next internship, which began amidst the pandemic. It was completely virtual. I developed creative content and dove into research all from my apartment, alone. The company was based in Austin, TX, so there was no way to connect with co-workers in person, even if we were 6 feet apart and masked. This proved challenging for me. Despite working on some of my favorite tasks, using my favorite programs and learning new skills daily, being bound to my room stunted my creativity.
Over the course of this internship, I realized the importance of reaching out to team members and meeting face-to-face, virtually. With the gift of today’s communication technology, I learned how to still connect live with co-workers in order to brainstorm and plan ahead, which prepared me for my current role at March.
Having started at March before we were able to head into the office, I struggled to feel connected with coworkers right away. Since many March employees had already met in person and worked together for months, if not years, I felt disconnected as I joined the team over video calls and Slack messages. But I did not let this override my confidence as a new intern. The skills I learned from online school and previous internships helped me integrate myself to this wonderful new team while remaining true to how I learn best.
Video calls have been so helpful in this effort. For example, instead of sending and waiting for a reply, I frequently opt for a quick call instead, the virtual equivalent of popping by someone’s desk. Screen-sharing lets us brainstorm new visual directions, chat out feedback, and ask questions.
I’ve also found messaging on agency threads via Slack to be a blessing. Connecting as a full company has never been easier. The March team can discuss current events, news in our industry, and bond over shared interests and hobbies all in specific threads. Even though these channels were available pre-remote work, I’m told they’re more alive now as everyone yearns for connection.
This summer, we’ve been able to spend more time in the office. When I do get to visit, I value my time there more than I would have before. Since it’s outside of the daily routine, these occasional office trips are both exciting and actively help me gain a better sense of my role at March. This June we gathered to celebrate weekly, we host agency bingo and trivia to help connect those in and out of the office. Events like these lift our agency morale and reconnect us all, even if it is only for an hour or two.
Now more than ever, I appreciate the time I can spend with my coworkers in person, and their support in incorporating myself and other newbies while remote. Even though my internship with March has been mostly virtual, I’ve learned to make the best of every human-to-human interaction, even those on screens. Plus, the tech at our fingertips has been instrumental in quickly acclimating to my new team.
As much as I’ve resented the additional screen-time and endless video calls in the past, I’ve learned that positivity and genuine connections can exist in our lives in endless ways. From my experiences as a student, intern, and young professional – in person or virtual – I’ve learned that attitude and initiative is everything.