With the onset of COVID-19, WIL students across the province have had to make the transition to working from home. It’s a difficult time for them, given many are not able to work from home, are unsure about if they should return home not, or suddenly find themselves with unexpected financial hardship. To support those students, ACE-WIL has put together a COVID FAQ for students and employers. All the information that we know at this time about helping students and employers through the pandemic is available there. It also links to the COVID-19 information pages of all of ACE-WIL’s member institutions. For those of us fortunate enough to have jobs we can continue to perform from home, we have the #WILFromHome Series. The #WILFromHome series shows how students and their supervisors are overcoming the challenges presented by working from home.
One of the WIL students working from home is Mary Ziel Boncajes. Mary is currently an Information and Operations Assistant at the University of Victoria. Mary works via the UVic Co-op and Career portal extracting and manipulating data to produce reporting statistics for the University’s various Co-op programs and also on the Consistency of Practice Project, which is a collaborative project to review and streamline the business processes of the Co-op program as a whole. Prior to her current co-op, she had done one other work term as part of her mandatory Co-op undergraduate degree. While working remotely was optional in her previous co-op, this term is her first time working from home on a full-time basis.
Talking about the transition to working from home, Mary told ACE-WIL:
“The transition from working on campus to working from home has been thankfully smooth, but of course, with exceptions due to the occasional VPN hiccup or Skype for Business blip. A notable difference for me has been going from a shared office space to a singular work room – while I miss my fellow officemates very much, I’ve got to say… having a window in my new “cubicle” has been a game-changer!
I believe my role has been very forgiving throughout everything, as not much of my processes have been affected by going remote. As my work is dependent on data from the Co-op and Career Portal as opposed to in-person communication, I have been lucky to say that “as long as the data doesn’t change, my work doesn’t change!” With that being said, the most significant difference to my role would have to be the meetings that have since moved online. While virtual meetings hold their own benefits, there are aspects present in face-to-face meetings like body language that can’t be fully expressed through this medium.”
One of the biggest challenges of the pandemic is dealing with the uncertainty of the situation. It can be difficult to maintain your mental health, even if you are fortunate enough to be able to work from home. Discussing mental health challenges, Mary told ACE-WIL:
“Experiencing such unprecedented events in our lifetime can be challenging, especially when the immediate future is uncertain. What has helped me feel connected throughout social and physical distance has been incorporating at-home self-care into my workday. For example, this has meant trying out that new recipe I’ve been eyeing during my lunch or using my coffee break to virtually check-in with my loved ones. To best mimic my former working arrangements that I shared with the other co-op students at the office, we’ve moved our in-person conversations to group chats on Skype for Business. As well, I’ve been keeping up my regular check-ins with my supervisor through virtual meetings and calls. As we take each day as it comes, I believe it’s important to be kind to ourselves, especially when our routines and activities begin to change from their norm.”
It is important, however, to remember that social distancing will not last forever. So, we asked Mary about what she’s looking forward to when this is all over:
“While the current measures in place may feel like we are living at a standstill, the world continues to move forward. In my experience, the circumstances of this pandemic has given light to many of the daily mundane that had passed me by without much thought: The routine of the morning commute to work, the social hum of classmates and coworkers, and the freedom to walk around the campus were all beautiful parts of what my work life was like prior to this pandemic. I’m hoping once this is over that we can all share this new-found appreciation for the “little things” that everyday brings, and reflect this back onto the world through goodwill and consideration.”