I Completed a Co-op Work Term From My Bedroom and You Can Too
For the last seven months, I have been a full-time employee and co-op student. In the last seven months, I have not once stepped into an official “place of work”.
I have done work on my bed, at my desk, in the kitchen, at a friend’s house, in a hotel room, and at my parent’s house.
I’ve even sent work emails at the summit of a hike. But I have not once worked in a company office for my job. Welcome to working in the age of COVID-19.
For two work terms, I have acted as an audio engineer, associate producer, and content writer for a local production company. What does this entail exactly? Essentially, I edit and format audio for podcasts, movies, and audiobooks that are being produced by this company.
I also got to write short articles about featured guests on the podcast. I am lucky enough to really enjoy the work I am doing. I have learned so much and I am very grateful to have this opportunity. But it has not been without its learning curves and challenges.
If you’re a student considering doing co-op in the coming year, please don’t be deterred by the idea of having to do it from home. I certainly was a bit nervous at first, but it also offers a lot of benefits.
Each position is different, so my experience likely won’t be identical to the one you might have, but I hope that I can still provide you a little help and comfort in trying to navigate a very different work environment.
In previous jobs and in my first co-op, it was easy to get into the “work mindset”. You know it is a place of work and professionalism where you have to speak, act, and think a specific way.
Working from home, this took on a different meaning. Most times, I’m still in my pyjamas and drinking my first cup of tea as I begin working through emails I received throughout the night. Not exactly the image of professionalism, I will admit.
But flexibility and adaptability are perhaps the two most important skills to build when working from home. So, even though I look (and feel) like I’ve just rolled out of bed, I mentally prepare myself to do work by tackling small tasks first, like reading through and responding to shorter emails.
Once I’ve done the smaller things, I get myself breakfast and get dressed for the day. In the early days of my co-op, sweatpants and hoodies were the outfit of choice. But as the term progressed, I realized I felt more motivated to do work when I dressed up a little.
I still look for comfort, but I’ve adopted wearing long dresses, overalls, or mom-jeans. These certainly aren’t the height of “office wear”, but they’re definitely a step up from daytime PJs.
Next, I make a “To Do List”. This is my life-line for the day. I add everything to this in detail: who I have to email, what files I need to send, who I am meeting with that day, what files need editing. I’ll add things throughout the day and tick them off as I go. It holds me accountable and keeps my brain in order.
And then my work begins.
This position is unique because I don’t have set work hours. I have a number of hours I need to work in a week, but I could complete all those hours over the span of 2 days, or over all 7 days.
This is a blessing and a curse. I am a notorious procrastinator, so I really needed to get my act together to make this flexible schedule work. I made sure I wrote down all major deadlines in my work notebook (a work notebook or planner being something else I’d highly recommend for working from home) and kept track of the team calendar on Trello.
Once I had my deadlines in order, I found that the key to success was learning to prioritize projects.
Figure out which task will take you the longest. Which deadline is the soonest? Which one have you already made progress on?
Is there a coworker waiting on you to complete something? Often times, I would write my To Do list in order of priority so I could visualize what was most pressing.
In terms of where I do my work, as I began this post, I’ve done work in a variety of locations. And that’s simply because the type of work I’m doing allows for that.
In order to edit audio files, I need a quiet environment, like my bedroom or the kitchen when no one is around. This is very contrary to my work space when I am studying for school.
When I am in student mode and writing essays, doing research, or attending lectures, I need a pristine, aesthetic, functional work environment with complete silence and specific stationery.
But when I am working, I can get in the zone anywhere as long as there isn’t too much going on in the background (except for audio editing when I do need silence).
However, find the work environment that works best for you. Maybe you’re like me and you get along fine doing work in different places around the house or in other locations. Or, perhaps you need an at-home-office set up that helps you get into the work mindset. Play around with this until you find a setting that allows you to focus and be productive.
But above all else, to make the most of your co-op and to ensure you’re doing the best work possible, ask questions and communicate with your employer.
You’re doing a co-op to learn and to gain professional experience. Doing it from home shouldn’t limit that.
Yes, being trained for a new position online can be tricky at times, but it’s by no means impossible. Take advantage of an employer’s offer to meet one on one, speak up in team meetings when you have questions or ideas, take notes when necessary.
Communication also includes communicating your needs. So, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Working from home doesn’t mean you have to keep working through a migraine or a particularly difficult mental health day.
Talk to your employer when you need a sick day or if you’re feeling overwhelmed in order to come to a solution, just as you would in a traditional workplace.
You could also try going for walks on your lunch break, calling a friend for some socialization, or since you don’t have to take the time to walk to lunch, you could also try a new recipe.
I never thought I could learn so much about the professional multimedia field in a remote position. Especially when most of the work is done in my bedroom. But I cannot recommend doing a co-op of any kind more highly. Be it from home, or in a physical workplace. When you have the right tools and techniques, it’s an extremely rewarding experience.