It is hard to believe that one month ago people everywhere were going into work, sitting in class, spending their weekends at bars and restaurants, and traveling around the world. Now, we’ve settled into a new normal of remote work, online classes, and virtual events like Zoom happy hours and other online experiences.
Working from home is something that has been on the rise for several years. Even before the pandemic, 5 million Americans were working from home at least half the time and the number of telecommuting employees has increased 173% since 2005. It is clear that working from home is going to continue to increase, and I know that I am learning skills now that will be valuable to me in the future.
As a senior in college living on campus and interning two days a week at Break the Ice Media, I saw my life change in so many ways. Just as I was getting ready to wrap up my senior year on campus, I was forced to move home and finish up my college experience online. My classes moved to Zoom, and I began working my internship remotely. As someone who has never worked from home or taken online classes before, this was a huge adjustment, as I’m sure it was for so many people. I have found this new virtual world challenging, but also exciting and full of so many new possibilities.
Adjusting to remote work
Just days after I moved home, non-essential businesses were closed, and the entire Break the Ice Media team transitioned to remote work. From my perspective the transition was fairly seamless because all the online programs I used in the office are on my computer, like SharePoint for files and Slack for messaging.
I’ve learned how to stay focused and motivated and find the best places in my house to work. Everybody is different, and I have heard a lot of people say they work best with one set workspace. I have found I like to move around throughout the day. If I have trouble focusing in one spot I migrate to another room in my house and start working from there. Although there haven’t been too many opportunities with the unpredictable Upstate, NY spring weather that we have, working outside is my personal favorite place. There is something about sitting in the sun that makes everything slightly more enjoyable.
In order to be successful as a virtual worker it is important to stay organized and on task, despite the distractions of home. I have found it is also important to take little brain breaks throughout the day. I didn’t realize until I started working from home how impactful those little office conversations are. Stopping to eat lunch or going for a quick walk are great ways to give the mind a little break and stay focused on specific tasks.
The lines between school, work, and my personal life can be easily blurred. It is important to break up the day and allow for free time, just like I would have at school. Just because I can be doing work 24/7 now doesn’t necessarily mean that I should. Keeping a to-do list, prioritizing what is most important, and staying organized and focused are key to being successful in this new virtual world we are all living in.
It has become clear to me that working from home cannot be successful without staying connected as much as possible. That is why Zoom has become a way of life for so many people. I have seen how well the team stays connected, from the status update every Monday, a mid-week update every Wednesday to wine time every Friday with the whole team. This is in addition to the countless other meetings that team members have throughout the week.
There are also so many virtual experiences right now. Museums like The Louvre, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Vatican Museum are all offering free virtual tours. There are places all over the world that you would typically have to fly thousands of miles to see but are now right at your fingertips. Even close to home you are bound to find virtual tours, experiences, and classes available all the time. In the Finger Lakes you can take a virtual tour of the Corning Museum of Glass or have a virtual happy hour with the New York State Brewers Association. The possibilities are endless and are a great way to ease some of the restlessness so many of us are feeling.
While becoming a virtual intern and an online student have been challenging, it has also been a great learning experience. As a senior in college, not only have I had to adjust to remote work, I have also had to adjust to school from home. I only have a few classes left to graduate, and now instead of walking to class I am logging onto Zoom. It is definitely a strange experience seeing classmates sitting in their homes.
There are so many virtual experiences and resources online just waiting to be clicked on.
This experience has also taught me the importance of being creative and adaptable. I have watched the team at BTI rapidly change their marketing strategy to fit these times. Within one week they rolled out a seven-part online course to help businesses develop a post-pandemic marketing strategy. They have also been taking this as an opportunity to take online courses and attend webinars. There are so many virtual experiences and resources online just waiting to be clicked on.
The second Destination on the Left virtual summit kicked off on April 1, an event with virtual presentations from leaders in the travel and tourism industry open throughout the month of April. Over 350 people have attended to continue their learning and prepare for what will come.
Break the Ice Media helps our client, Travel Alliance Partners, host a webinar every week. Webinars are a huge asset to any business normally, but especially with everything going on right now. Webinars are an affordable and time efficient way to engage an audience. They allow for direct contact with the audience both live during the webinar and for those who watch it back after the fact. It’s not possible right now to hold live in-person sessions or conferences, so webinars are a great way to reach people.
Virtual summits, webinars and online learning opportunities are great for companies to host, and for those of us stuck at home, they are awesome to engage with. There is no better time to learn new things, explore a new topic, or increase your expertise. So many of the virtual resources are free or low-cost. All you have to do is sign up and you can develop new connections and a wealth of new information right from your couch.
The past month has been an adjustment for so many people, but it has also been a chance to learn and grow. As an online intern and student who saw so much of my life change, this experience has taught me how to adapt, be flexible, and always find the good. This virtual landscape is not going to disappear as stay-at-home orders are lifted, so it is important to embrace and take full advantage of these opportunities as they come.