When the COVID-19 outbreak began, life changed drastically. Besides emotional and environmental changes, many people have experienced a shift in their professional lives as well. The transition from physically going into a workplace to staying at home and using Zoom poses the question: Are 9 to 5 office jobs ever coming back?
Arguably, the biggest benefit that has come from working remotely is flexibility. Major companies such as Indeed and Google no longer need an office filled with people to get the job done. Instead, they’re embracing and even extending their remote work options.
Indeed announced that all 10,000 of their employees will remain remote until July 2021. According to Business Insider, the company also stated that it’s planning on making remote work a more permanent option on a case-by-case basis. In July, Google extended its work-from-home policy until June 2021. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, said he released a survey to his employees, which came back with more than half wanting a hybrid schedule even after the pandemic is over. Many other companies such as American Express, Airbnb, Uber and Facebook are now extending their remote policies.
University of Miami alumna Lauren Bruno is currently a freelance art director based in Los Angeles. For her, the biggest setback of working from home has been finding a balance between work and her social life. “When I was working from home with nothing to do during quarantine, I was always available,” she said. “I was working ridiculous hours all through the day and night. I finally got to the point where I realized I was going to get burnt out if I didn’t make me time.” Hayley Buchholz, another UM alumna who works as an art director at Good Kid, faced similar challenges. “It could be hard to separate work from down-time when they are both happening in the same place,” Buchholz said. Although this flexibility has given her time to workout and cook during her breaks, she said she has found it difficult to work and brainstorm with her colleagues over FaceTime.
Both Bruno and Buchholz agree that even after COVID-19 is over, they prefer having a mix of both working remotely and from the office. “Not seeing my co-workers every day makes me upset,” said Bruno. “Human connection is lost a bit.” Buchholz said she’s in a similar position, noting that “sometimes it’s necessary to meet in-person and go to the office for important meetings.”
By dividing her time in a more balanced way, Buchholz said she has found that her stress levels have decreased, and her overall happiness has increased. Although she says working from home will most likely not affect her career choices in the future, Buchholz thinks the advertising industry has been and will continue to be very flexible and supportive of creative working environments—wherever they may be.
Companies aren’t the only ones implementing remote work policies. Schools and universities have also adapted. Students are being encouraged to continue their studies off campus, which is helping students adjust to what may be the “new normal” even after 2020.
Blake Atwell, a junior at UM majoring in broadcast journalism, completed a spring and summer internship with NBC remotely in 2020. “I went from field producing and working in the studio to being completely remote,” said Atwell. “NBC mailed me a laptop, and I got to work right away.” This shift gave him experience working in a professional remote environment.
Although he has been able to adjust, he still longs for the day that he can go back to a traditional, in-person setting. “There’s just nothing like sitting alongside producers in a newsroom when breaking news happens,” Atwell said. “Nothing at home can replace field producing or shooting stand-ups for your reel.”
With that being said, Atwell still believes there are significant advantages to working remotely, like networking. He said he has found it easier to schedule times to connect with people because most of them have set schedules with specific meeting times, instead of unpredictable in-person schedules.
Remote internships also provide an opportunity for those who would not be able to work at companies out of their home state otherwise. Esther Animalu, a junior at UM, said she would not have been able to take on her CNN news internship had it been in person because it is based in Washington D.C. “I like how convenient the remote digital experience is,” Animalu said. “I’m still able to hold Zoom discussions with reporters and other people in the field that I want to talk to.” Moving forward, Animalu doesn’t think the remote option will affect her career choices too much, but she does appreciate how accessible working remotely has been.
In many people’s eyes, coronavirus has changed the dynamic of the workplace for the better. The change has allowed for more opportunities and less stress for working professionals and students, However, there are downsides. This new normal has come at the cost of human connection. As we continue through the tumultuous year that is 2020, our only hope is to continue to adapt and learn how to take advantage of the digital age.
words_camila múnera. illustration & design_abby pak.
This article was published in Distraction’s winter 2020 print issue.