Richard Alpapara and Gabriel Green are both Digital Marketing Apprentices:
Working from home was a novelty in March but soon wore off and left us all yearning for human interaction. No one that commutes on the London Underground ever thought that they would miss an awkward moment of stranger eye-contact, but we do now! Despite the challenges that we have all faced whilst working from home, here are eight things that we have experienced during lockdown which we can learn from. We hope that they give you an insight into apprentice life and/or inspire you during this difficult time.
1. You’re muted
Attending a meeting nowadays means clicking a link. Team collaboration is now as efficient as ever, but there may be a caveat to that.
First off, the only real change of remote working is the medium in which you communicate with your team, so you’re still able to polish your communication skills as advertised in the programme.
I still leave every Zoom call feeling more confident about my communication skills than I felt when I entered. Though, I started my apprenticeship in January and started working from home 2 months later in March. That’s essentially 75% of my apprenticeship spent in my room!
At the end of the day, speaking to a group of people in the office is different from speaking to a group of muted profile pictures in a remote call. This can be worrying as you never know if your communication skills have only in fact improved in the comforts of your home and your webcam.
So my suggested remedy to that is to act in a remote meeting as you would in an office meeting. That means not turning on your cam, and maintaining eye contact when speaking and listening to someone.
2. Lockdown is an opportunity to save money
They say money can’t buy you happiness, but without money, it would be pretty much impossible to live your life. That’s why saving money is so important, especially as an apprentice who doesn’t have a high salary yet. I live outside of London and commuting into work every day costs a lot. By ‘a lot’ I mean £450 a month for my overground train ticket alone. Being stuck at home may be boring but when I map out my finances and realise that I’m saving that much a month, it puts things in perspective for me.
Whilst in lockdown, I don’t buy lunch every day as I normally would so that’s a small daily saving that adds up. Plus, when your colleagues ask you to go for drinks after work, you tend to go. Cocktail bars and lunch spots in London are not cheap and so that’s a healthy weekly saving.
Overall I think this lockdown has put me in a much better financial position and I really consider myself fortunate during this global pandemic. As an apprentice, saving even a small amount of money is everything because you’re at the age where you need to plan your life out. Saving is important but I don’t allow myself to get caught up in it, buy yourself little treats here and there and it helps motivate you to work on your finance. I like to treat myself to a slightly nicer lunch (better than a meal deal) for every milestone I hit in my savings account. Set yourself a target and treat yourself and you’ll stay motivated to save.
3. The apprentice network is strong
When I decided to do an apprenticeship, I was worried about being isolated from all my friends who chose the traditional university route.
I consider myself a pretty extroverted guy and I really wanted to be with an apprenticeship provider that fosters a sense of community which is exactly what sold WhiteHat to me. They were the first apprenticeship provider I visited, and it set the bar really high to the point where I almost wished I didn’t get accepted for all the other roles I applied for with other providers.
Lockdown or not, the Community Hub has remained active and has made me feel that we’re in this together.
Over time, after chatting with the same WhiteHat apprentices via Zoom, I catch myself asking whether I’ve met them face-to-face before as the connection does feel authentic.
This lockdown has made me realise that I’m not missing out on social life by not going the university route. If anything, it’s amplified the fact that I’m at the heart of one of the most vibrant networks of young professionals working across UK’s top companies.
4. So long to the so-long commutes
A massive positive of the lockdown is that I don’t have to commute, my commute lasts almost 2 hours each way, sometimes longer. My morning starts with a 5:45 wake up, and I leave my house at 6:40. I also get home at around 7:45-8 in the evening, which means I wouldn’t normally see much of my family in the week but I’ve spent lots of time with them during lockdown, and none of us have gone mad...yet. I also get time to go for a walk in the evening sometimes or at least spend some time in my garden, normally when I were to return from work it would already be dark.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day: fact. I wouldn’t normally eat a proper breakfast but now I have time to. I can wake up 2 hours after my normal wake up and still have time to spend an hour making and eating breakfast. This gives me a much-needed boost and sets me up for a successful and productive day.
There is one negative to bypassing the commute which I hadn’t thought I’d miss.! The people you see on your daily commute, those faces that you recognise every morning and you smile at. Where are they now? Are they okay? I know I can’t be the only one who’s thinking about these people in our lives, who we’ve never actually met. I couldn’t tell you the name of the guy in the ticket office at my local train station, but I’m worried about him. These familiar faces give us a sense of habit and routine when we see them every morning - without them, our routine has vanished.
So, when we go back to normal and our usual routines start again, don’t take these little interactions for granted. A smile can mean the world to someone and a “good morning” now and again can brighten up someone’s day.
My commute summed up to about 3 hours a day. It took all the time and energy I needed to get involved in other things I wanted to do - a massive red flag for work-life balance. So now that I essentially wake up and sleep in my ‘office’, I’ve been able to end the workday with some gas in the tank. I’ve been playing basketball, attending more WhiteHat events, and have been upskilling online.
I’ve also been one of the lucky few who are more comfortable working on their home PC than their office’s. There will still be, however, distractions at home. Take my neighbour for example, who thinks 9 AM’s the best time to mow the lawn just in time before my very important meeting.
6. Beating the strain: refresh, recharge, recalibrate - Gabriel
At the start of lockdown, I started to put on a lot of weight because I wasn’t getting the daily exercise I used to receive from my commute so I discovered a way to get my daily calorie-burn in along with a great strategy to stay productive. Simply put, I go for a run at lunchtime, every day. So instead of tackling a full-length day broken up by an hour of sitting in the room next to your at-home-office space, eating some ghastly quick lunch, you’re outside. A change of environment, fresh air, calories burnt, a mental recharge: what’s not to like!?! My run lasts 30 minutes, and I follow that up by having a shower for 10 minutes and a protein shake full of oats and banana. By doing this, I return to my desk and I’m completely refreshed. If you’re struggling to stay productive and you ever begin to feel strained, I recommend you try this!
It’s important to look after your physical health and mental health. Productivity seems to be everyone’s focus whilst working from home but well-being is more important and it’s the key to productivity. If you feel good, positivity is reflected in your work. Try it out and see the difference for yourself.
7. Taking a break
Working from home can make work feel concentrated at times. Back in the office, we would have the small chats here and there, have the occasional cake for someone’s birthday, and generally short bursts of ‘breaks.’
Those quick 5-10 mins does wonders in giving you a system refresh. I think that the same principle should be applied at home, even if it just means leaving your work area for a few minutes. I’ve found that there’s a threshold on just how much you can focus purely on work without diminishing its quality.
Don’t feel guilty for recharging every once in a while. It’s way better than staying at work with 1% battery.
8. Change your scenery
Another apprentice in the WhiteHat community suggested moving workspace to maintain productivity and I've tested it and found it really works. I’ve been sitting at my dining room table but sometimes I move into my bedroom, and onto my living room sofa to refresh myself. It completely eliminates the negative stigma surrounding your usual work environment and helps you to recharge.
Even if you do two days a week in one place and 3 days a week in another - it can help battle any mental and physical strain. If you pair this with the advice that we gave earlier about a midday run and shower in your lunch break, working from home will be a breeze. I wouldn’t have discovered this without being in such an amazing community of apprentices. So, remember to change it up!
9: Equip yourself
I am fortunate enough to have a desk in my house but some people may not. Especially since at apprentice age, most people are either having to share the house with their family members who are also working from home, or they have moved into their own flat and haven’t got sufficient office equipment yet.. Despite my fortune in the desk and laptop department, I’m 99% sure that my WiFi has a vendetta against me. It seems to cut out whenever I'm in an important call. I would safely say that it is the biggest inconvenience for me whilst working from home.
As an apprentice, I attend lessons with my cohort and coach to learn the content needed to achieve my qualification. WhiteHat have been fantastic in transitioning everything online and so our lessons are now conducted over Zoom with the coach sharing their screen with the presentation. My WiFi often cuts out during these lessons and so I miss content and have to review and revisit certain slides after the lesson. I’m sure this is frustrating for my coach as well because everytime I drop out, she must stop what she is explaining at that current moment in time to grant me access back into the Zoom call. Before lockdown, our lessons were in person and so we didn’t need to worry about WiFi interrupting, but for now, it’s the biggest obstacle that I face.
Being an apprentice WFH has been good, all things considered
To sum it up, WFH has its pros and cons and that can depend on your approach.
Overall, WFH has saved us plenty of money and time. We no longer need to wake up early to chase the early morning bus and to spend fortunes on travelcards.
However, sooner or later, apprentices will more likely be returning to the office either back in the programme or moving on to full-time roles.
And because WFH is a different environment, there is a risk that the skills we develop may dwindle once we’re back in an office environment. As much as you can, try to work from home as you would working in an office: have the occasional breaks, have an effective work set up etc.
Share your tips and advice about working from home in the comments section!