Written on: 17 March 2022
Written by: Frances Hardcastle
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Working from home as an apprentice comes with a unique set of challenges and benefits, but who better to guide you through the process than apprentices who are making WFH work for them?
As a Digital Marketing apprentice at Baltic, I currently have a hybrid working pattern, spending two days in the office and three days from home. For this blog, I’ll be joined by IT apprentice Thomas Measures, along with fellow Digital Marketers Sarah Chan and Felicianna Fernandes. Sarah has been working from home at RICS since October 2021, while Felicianna and Thomas are both based remotely at software firm EdgePetrol.
In this article, we’ll share our experiences around home and hybrid working along with some top tips to set you up for success.
Before 2020, it was almost unthinkable for an apprentice to work off-site. But now, after almost two years of work-from-home guidance, remote working is here to stay for many organisations.
As an apprentice, working alongside your colleagues is an amazing learning opportunity. There’s so much outside of your formal training programme that you can get involved with simply by listening to others and asking the right questions.
If the rest of your team are all office-based, then remote working may not be the right fit for you. But if you’re part of a company with an established culture of working from anywhere, there are ways you can take the collaborative learning experience online.
Starting an apprenticeship from your living room can be a slightly surreal experience, but if your employer has the right systems in place, you’ll soon get into the swing of things.
“For me personally, it was an easy transition,“ explains Digital Marketing Assistant, Felicianna.
“To settle me in, I met with my manager in person beforehand and had an induction. I received a warm welcome on Slack and had a lot of introduction meetings booked to get to know everyone. They also provided me with a work laptop, and if I ever need anything else to help assist me in my work, my colleagues are always happy to help.”
If you’re an apprentice just starting out with remote working, these five key tips can help you live your best WFH life:
Your work environment will make or break your experience, so it’s worth taking the time to set up a workstation that can fulfil your needs. It doesn't need to be permanent if you don't have the space, but it's important you have an area where you can take meetings undisturbed.
“I’m lucky to have a desk set up in my room which I’m able to work in,” says Thomas, who works in First Line IT Support. “But I often work in the living room or sometimes go to a coffee shop when I want a change of scenery.”
If your workplace gives you the option to add a second monitor to your home set-up, this can also make a world of difference, especially if you’re working on something visually demanding such as a data set or graphic design project.
“When I first started this role, I only used my laptop to do work and I was adamant I was happy with this,” says Sarah, a Digital Marketing Assistant.
“However, my colleagues and friends all recommended that I consider a second monitor because it makes work so much easier having two screens. I now do use a second monitor and I can definitely say I wouldn’t look back as it’s life changing for me!”
A good routine is essential to stop your work and home life blurring together.
According to Thomas, “having a good routine before work and throughout the working day helps you to stay focused. I try to make a good routine as though I’m going to the office. I like to get up around 6.30 to do some of my own personal work as well as have breakfast and do some reading.”
Working remotely gives you the opportunity to create your ideal routine, whether that’s fitting in some yoga before work, making an amazing lunch, or tackling your most important projects when you’re at your most alert – working from home gives you the flexibility to build a personalised schedule.
Communication is so important while working remotely. When you can’t just pop over to your manager’s desk to ask a question, it can be quite easy to feel a bit lost.
Setting up regular check-in sessions with your boss and the rest of the team is a really good way to stay on track and keep your priorities in order. Many remote organisations also have collaborative productivity systems such as Trello, Miro, Slack and Office 365 which can be great ways to share information, work on documents in real time, and get visibility on how your tasks fit into the rest of the team.
While it’s often up to managers to set up communication systems, it’ll be up to you to use them – don’t be afraid to ask questions or speak up when you get stuck on a project. As an apprentice, you’re here to learn and grow within the team, nobody will expect you to know everything already!
You’re working hard. But between the mysterious beeping coming from your washing machine, your mum calling (again) “just to see if you’re busy” and your neighbours treating the place like their own personal post office, you can soon find your WFH productivity taking a hit.
If you’re regularly being pulled away from your work by others around you, it’s important to set some boundaries. Ask others to respect your focus time and working hours and be firm about how long you have during your breaks.
If distraction is coming from within, and you find yourself scrolling Instagram without your manager to keep things focused, you need to take a different approach. Draw up a realistic timetable, add your daily tasks and breaks – and stick to it. When I found my screen time skyrocketing during lockdown, I also made a point of keeping my phone in the other room to break the doom-scrolling cycle.
With all the flexibility that comes with working remotely, it’s easy to get lost in your everyday projects and push your apprenticeship work onto the back burner, but this can cause a lot of stress later down the line.
Felicianna advises that you should “ease yourself into it so you don’t get overwhelmed, and plan out time to focus on apprenticeship work where you can so it doesn’t pile up.”
It can be helpful to agree set times with your manager for apprenticeship work, or to plan out in advance how your Workplace Projects can map onto your job role, so that everyone’s aware of what you’ll need to get involved in with plenty of time to collaborate with colleagues or book in any extra training time you might need.
The benefits of working remotely as an apprentice are the same as the benefits for employees who aren’t enrolled on a training programme.
“I like being able to work remotely because not only do I save time and money, I also have better flexibility and feel more productive,” says Felicianna.
“I love working from home,” explains Thomas. “I enjoy not having to commute every morning, which I think makes me more productive. I also enjoy the fact that I’m able to go to the gym on my lunch break.”
For Sarah, it’s all about flexibility: “I enjoy the flexibility of being able to create a schedule that works for me. My current role allows you to do flexible hours so long as you get your work done and do the required number of hours you’re meant to put in! This means I’m able to do minor tasks such as attending appointments or taking a call at a certain time. These were some things I was not able to do in my last role!”
It's worth noting that not every organisation that offers remote working automatically offer flexible hours. For me, I have fixed hours – which is great for switching off at the end of the day, but find working from home really helps with focused tasks, such as creating content, analysing data, and working on my apprenticeship projects.
According to Sarah and Thomas, the main challenges for doing an apprenticeship remotely revolve around getting to know the team.
“When I first began this role, I had a lot of questions to ask,” says Sarah. “It’s harder to connect with people online as you may not always get an immediate response. However, it does get easier over time – getting more exposure to the company and knowing who to contact helps. My manager has been amazing as she is always there to respond immediately to any questions I have which helps massively.”
“Working with people I hadn’t met yet felt a bit strange,” adds Thomas. “However, I soon met everyone on an office day a few months later – due to Covid – which solved this.”
Home working can be an amazing opportunity to work more independently and showcase your initiative, but you need to balance that with great communication and self-discipline.
Ultimately – as with any working environment – working from home as an apprentice is what you make of it. If you start with a supportive employer, a dedicated working space, and an open mind, you can thrive in your apprenticeship from any location.