Working from home and the move away from the office is deemed as one of the silver linings coming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Office life has changed forever, it seems unlikely that we will ever return to long commutes in bustling inner-city office blocks.
Google has already abandoned its plans to open a new office block in Dublin city centre, and more corporates are sure to follow. This is widely seen as a positive for workers, but the benefits and drawbacks are not equally shared between different cohorts of workers.
Those experienced professionals who spend their whole working lives in offices have already established their business relationships and networks. The benefits of these networks cannot be underestimated, particularly in a small, interlinked country such as Ireland.
Recent graduates or those new to the workplace face challenges to develop these relationships with their colleagues. It is simply impossible to build up the same kind of relationship over a crackly zoom call as on a coffee break. Graduates then must work twice as hard to fit in as we move towards the remote working world.
Relationships are not the only area in which graduates will be adversely affected. The graduates learning may be stunted in this environment due to lack of supervision and learning opportunities. Through no fault of the employer, structured learning and development will be more difficult and less effective when it is done remotely. The benefits of turning to a colleague and asking a quick question or simply absorbing conversations held by higher management are invaluable.
Interns are an interesting cohort in these times. While stereotypes of coffee runs and photocopying are not quite true (at least in any respectable company), interns are undoubtedly on the bottom of the priority list at the moment. The summer internships that went ahead in 2020 tended to be shorter, and more based on training than any workload.
This impromptu trial run could change the face of interning going forward. Employers still get a look at prospective graduates, without an intern interrupting them for tips on how to sum a column on Excel. Interns still get to flash names on their CV while saving a precious few more weeks of a college summer. Granted, the latter was not much use to 2020 interns.
The structural change to the working week will change forever. Workers are more likely to come in on a whim rather than spend a full working week in the office. While this may be viewed as a further negative to those new to office life, this is a prime opportunity to make remote working their own. This new generation of worker will not be burdened by the precedent set by any previous working arrangements. Their lives are not built around a set working routine, so can adapt, and sculpt their future to fit this new world order.
Conor Bergin – Business Correspondent