The challenges of working from home as an intern during COVID-19

September 20, 2020 - by Elvin Tan

The on-going pandemic has compelled many to work from home, and here at LivingWord Communications (LWC), it’s no different. One would expect working from home (WFH) to be a simple act, and yet, it’s fraught with its unique challenges.

Problems with WFH

Interns like me have noticed a slew of problems working from home has presented. Working in the office has proven to be a more productive endeavour, an incredibly important factor for interns due to their need to contribute to the company. This correlates with my personal experience, at the office, interns have easy access to their colleague for guidance, with fewer distractions than WFH presents.

A fundamental problem WFH has revealed is in communications. WhatsApp was the preferred communications app used at LWC, and its usage has revealed a few shortcomings.

  • It’s hard to enter a professional mindset: WhatsApp is designed for personal communications. Having used it in our day to day personal lives makes it hard to separate work from leisure. It is also hard to build a relationship with colleagues and understand the office culture using WhatsApp.
  • Conversations get misinterpreted or lost: There is more to verbal communications than just speaking, in face-face personal conversation, non-verbal communications, facial expression and conversational nuances play an important and often overlooked role in getting a message across. Using WhatsApp can make factors like these get lost and misinterpreted easily. This is incredibly difficult for interns as we need constant guidance and have loads of questions to ask, leading to miscommunications.
  • Message delay on WhatsApp: WhatsApp messages might not get read for a while, leading to time and productivity lost, something which isn’t suitable for interns as there’s a need for us to contribute to the workplace.

Distractions are another factor many interns faced as well when. Netflix, television, pets, the internet are a constant source of distraction to one when working from home.

According to a JLL article, before the pandemic, many millennials were at the forefront of trends like WFH. The pandemic, however, has proven otherwise. “In many parts of Asia Pacific, homes are small, and many have multiple generations living under one roof,” says Kamya Miglani, Director of Corporate Solutions Research, JLL Asia Pacific, making WFH unsuitable for the long term. Office spaces are designed in mind to support working, and therefore helps interns to be more productive.

Many millennials surveyed in the article also mentioned missing the social engagement that the office presents, allowing workers to connect with their colleagues, collaborate, and share ideas.

Benefits of WFH

However, there are benefits to WFH as well. Based on my research and personal experience, the benefits are:

  • Less commuting: Gone are the two-hour daily commutes by train back and forth to the office for me. Certain studies have shown that long-distance commuting is associated with issues like higher cholesterol, elevated blood sugar levels, and increased risk of depression.
  • Better work-life balance: WFH allows for flexible schedules and longer sleeping hours due to not having to commute to work. It also allowed for more interaction with family members and loved ones.
  • Better savings: Without having to commute and spend money on lunch, primarily if your office is located in the Central Business District is a considerable advantage.
  • Better sustainability: Less commuting means a better environment due to reduced air pollution, and also less paper waste, air condition, heating and lighting required when working in the office.

Advice for WFH for interns

Everything in life has its pros and cons; it is up to us to leverage it in a way to make it to be sustainable. Like many interns requiring constant guidance from my peers at work, the office is a suitable environment for learning and getting to know your colleagues which is crucial for your career success.

Here’s what I’ve learnt to make WFH more manageable:

  • Morning check-in calls: A zoom call in the morning with your colleagues on the to-do list of the day will make WFH more manageable. Having more experienced colleagues sort out tasks to do makes it more manageable, and clarifies any situation you might encounter later on.
  • Pomodoro technique: To maximize productivity, break your work into a single session by setting a timer to 25mins (Pomodoro), then taking a 5mins break after. After four ‘Pomodoros’ take a more extended and restorative 10-15 min break. Rinse and repeat. When done correctly, the Pomodoro technique can help you better manage your time and boost productivity.
  • WFH doesn’t have to take place in your home: Any location with a good WIFI and comfortable environment can be a suitable place when WFH. Starbucks, McDonald’s, the library, these are the perfect location to get work done away from your home.

By using some of these techniques, it may be easier for interns to WFH. Also, once an intern has become familiar enough with the task he/she’s assigned, working from home on alternate days could be a reasonable compromise to leverage both benefits that WFH and office bring.s

Do you agree that working from the office is better than working from home? Let us know what you think.

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