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The impacts of COVID-19 have been felt in all areas of life and for many it's made school and work life completely virtual. Suddenly young Canadians are finding themselves trading commutes for the kitchen table, and conference rooms for group video chats.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of change, and for many of us school and work is completely virtual. We’ve traded our commutes for the kitchen table and might have even traded in a blazer for some athleisure

Whether you have work experience or are just starting your career, this new normal calls for changing routines and adjusting to challenges that come with working from home. Many RBC summer students completed their internships this summer completely remote. In this series we chat with a few of our summer students to get their perspective on working from home, and how to separate work and life when they’re both happening in the same place. In this installment, we are sitting down with Maria, a RBC Career Launch associate in Halifax.

Name: Maria

Title: Associate, RBC Career Launch Program

Location: Halifax

Started: March 2020

Describe the program that you’re in.

The Career Launch Program is a one year recent grad program with three rotations. My first rotation was supposed to be at an RBC branch here in Halifax, but now I’m working with the Commercial Services team. I finished school a week before starting this job, then the pandemic hit a week after that so all of my rotations will be virtual.

How have you found the working from home environment so far?

It was a bit of a roller coaster in the beginning. I had just graduated, so I went from going to classes to starting a job that had no physical structure. It was a bit of a struggle at first to figure out my routine. After a month and a half, it just became normal. Now I really enjoy working from home and think it would be weird to go to an office because I’m so used to this! Lately it’s been very rewarding to see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve gotten to know myself through this experience.

What does a typical day for you look like?

I wake up at 6:45am (or 7 if I hit the snooze button). I do some yoga, get in the shower, then make my breakfast. Around 8 I’m at my desk and make sure I have a clean space. That’s really important. I use that time to clean my desk and to get everything organized. At 8:30 I start work. The first hour and a half of my day is for professional development, which is part of the program. This involves online courses or reading articles, depending on what skills I’d like to develop. After that I start to answer emails that I’ve been assigned. I take my lunch around 12:30pm and work until 5pm. After work I go to the gym for an hour, then relax for the rest of the evening.

How do you prep your workspace?

I like to have two monitors, so I have my laptop and another monitor set up. My notes I keep filed away until I need them. It’s a very simple set up. I used to be the only one who worked from home but last week my boyfriend started working from home too. He currently has the nice office chair [laughs]. I’m going to get a good chair this weekend because it’s so important to have good posture.

Right now I’m working in my bedroom and I have pictures and plants set up here. Lots of natural light. I know not everyone has a second room or office they can work from, and working from a bedroom is the only option. You might be tempted to work on your bed with your laptop but it’s not a good idea! So when I wake up in the morning, I make sure to make my bed right away so I’m not tempted to go back in.

With your boyfriend also working from home, how do you deal with distractions?

We’re pretty good with distractions, especially since my boyfriend is on the phone a lot for work. In the morning we say bye to each other before work, eat lunch together, and then say bye again before we work until 5pm. After work is when I socialize and see friends.

How have you been able to integrate into your team and build relationships with your colleagues?

I’m very lucky that everyone on my team is social. They created group chats right away and we use these chats for work purposes, and to get to know each other and socialize. I receive calls from my managers to see how I’m doing and it’s nice to see that they want to make us feel like a part of the team. I’m assigned a manager and a mentor, who I chat with daily. The manager assigns the tasks I’m doing as part of my job and the mentor is the person I go to when I need help.

Have you met anyone on your team in-person?

I’ve met one of my teammates, who is another Career Launch Associate, during my interview [pre-covid]. We had the same interview for the same position and we both ended up getting hired. She’s my closest work friend, even though I’ve only met her once!

How have you been able to build trust and credibility while working remotely?

My role has clear metrics that reflect my output, so one of the biggest measures is my progress and how I’ve been able to achieve more in the same amount of time since starting this position. I respond to emails as soon as I can, so people know that I’m here and working. I let my manager know if I can take on more work to show a willingness to learn and develop more skills.

What skills have you developed during your virtual experience?

The biggest would be virtual networking. I wasn’t huge on networking before so virtual networking sounded intimidating. But I’ve been joining in on meetings, sending messages to people, connecting on LinkedIn, and it feels more comfortable to me. I’ve gained more confidence in myself to approach people and start conversations. There are over 100 Career Launch Associates across Canada and we have an RBC Connect group for us to get to know each other, which makes it easy to meet people.

I’ve also developed many soft skills. In my professional development, I’ve been able to do so much more than what I thought was possible. With the RBC learning platform there are courses around data management, communications, and presentation skills. There are so many courses I’ve been able to access in my daily professional development hour and it’s available to all RBC employees.

How has RBC made your work from home experience easier?

We actually have virtual meetings about working from home. Last week I was in a meeting about leading and working virtually, and another meeting that was organized by the mental health committee on how to take care of yourself as a remote employee and creating boundaries. I like that my manager and mentor check up on me. It’s a good feeling knowing that RBC cares about our well-being and that I’m not on my own here. It’s weird but I’ve never felt more like I’m part of a team than now.