Newcastle University student, Hannah talks about the pros and cons of hybrid working during her placement year.
I’m Hannah, and I undertook a year-long marketing placement at the Newcastle University Careers Service as part of my Media, Communication and Cultural Studies degree.
Why I was interested in a placement year
I was initially drawn to the idea of undertaking a placement year to expand my network and enhance my career prospects, whilst developing key skills including time management and organisation. While aware that my placement experience was likely to be different from previous students due to the pandemic, I was determined to gain experience in my desired industry and knew that a year-long placement would be invaluable to me.
The uncertainty of hybrid working
Admittedly, I felt slightly anxious when I read the term ‘hybrid working’ in my job description and wondered what it would mean for my experience. Would I get lonely when working from home or feel disconnected from my colleagues? This year’s taught me a lot, and while there are some cons to hybrid working there are lots of pros too… perhaps even more than you’d think!
My virtual first weeks
Due to COVID-19 regulations, I spent my initial weeks working solely from home. Yes, it was odd meeting everyone for the first time, virtually! It was a bit of a challenge trying to remember everyone’s names and faces from email introductions and teams calls. There were times when I felt unsure of my responsibilities and was nervous to disturb colleagues with messages and calls to clarify tasks, because I didn’t want to ‘spam’ them and come across like I didn’t know what I was doing - it’s easier to lean across a colleague’s desk and ask a quick question in-person, right? It’s important to remember that you’re on a placement year to learn and your employer is there to support you with your progression. They want you to ask as many questions as possible because that’s how you learn and improve! Sure enough, after asking those questions, I was reassured there was nothing to worry about. Check-ins with my line manager became a regular occurrence and processes such as Trello boards were introduced to make things easier.
Back to the office
The transition to working three days at home and two days in the office began. My days in the office enabled me to match names to faces properly, get to know and network with colleagues, collaborate on tasks and participate in in-person meetings. My days working from home increased my confidence by encouraging me to speak up and allowed me to focus more on independent tasks and structure my workload, improve my communication, organisation, and time management skills. Plus, I was so lucky that I got to be involved in the marketing of university-wide events and attend them (thanks COVID-19)! My favourite event of all was the Pride of Newcastle University Awards 2022. Office days saw the team pull together, execute ideas, and define event details, while I was able to focus on design tasks such as event floorplans and certificates when I was working from home. The event was a real success!
Hybrid working worked for me
The flexibility of hybrid working was a massive positive for me and helped structure my commitments depending on whether I was working in the office or not.
Yes, hybrid working is different to what we are used to and like anything different or new, it may not come without worries or concerns. But why does different have to be a bad thing? Different pushes you out of your comfort zone and that is exactly what you need to grow and develop as a person both personally, and professionally. In my experience, the balance between days working from home and in the office was just right.
The resources are still in place to do your job properly, it’s just about having the confidence to jump into a different way of working. Take it from me, send those ‘annoying’ messages to your supervisor and ask as many questions as you like (because you’re not being annoying at all!). It’s your placement year and you only get out of it what you put in!