I am a 7th year student at SFU majoring in Business (Accounting Concentration) and History. I am currently enrolled in the SFU Co-op program since Fall 2018 and began my first work term in Summer 2019. My expectations for my first Co-op work term were that I would develop a unique set of skills and improve upon my existing skills to help me better prepare for my career path. These expectations were quickly changed with the abundant amounts of work experience learned over my work terms at SFU Residence. Even after two years, I am still surprised by the amount of new experiences I’ve been exposed to and the ongoing changes in the work environment.
Shifts Within the Working Environment
Perhaps the most notable change for me was the nature of working on my daily tasks. I would often work with hardcopies of various documentations each day that I arrive to work whereas now, my work is almost 100% done on an electronic basis. In a way, I find this style easier to manage due to the ability to simply search for a document I need by typing the name of the document rather than needing to open physical folders to actually look for the documents within a stack of paper.
Another major change I noticed was the change in communication methods. Normally, quick questions could be answered simply with me asking someone who sits next or across from me. Now, even the simplest “yes or no” questions may take time to receive confirmations. More importantly, whether for responses to questions or task assignments, communication is mostly limited to words and texts. Noting from previous business courses, words themselves comprise of only 7% of the messages, allowing intention and smaller details to easily be missed. To overcome these challenges, I highly recommend holding short meetings with either your co- workers or supervisors, preferably through a platform that allow for webcams to be used. While I thought cameras were only optional during my online ZOOM lectures, I felt much more engaged with the class (as well as ZOOM meetings with co-workers) while having the cameras turned on. In the case of my current placement with SFU Residence and Housing, I do come to campus once per week as not everything can be done remotely. Seeing the campus empty from West Mall to Cornerstone still feels strange to this day.
Working remotely has had its ups-and-downs and was definitely not the perfect world that I had initially thought it was. It’s much more convenient to work at home and a lot of time gets saved as commute time gets cut from your daily schedule. Conversely, there are far more distractions, notably mail and parcel deliveries, at home than in the workplace and not having access to certain types of office equipment does slow down the workload. Since I began with an 8-month work term, I felt that I had plenty of time to make meaningful contributions to my workplace. What I didn’t expect, however, was that my work term would face continuous extensions for more than a full year and eventually have a chance to work remotely. I am now working through my fifth work term and am looking forward to making two full years of contributions to the SFU Residence department. I do believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has made remote workplaces a norm for many jobs and I am glad to have gained exposure to it through the Co-op program.
Beyond the Blog
Visit the Co-operative Education website to learn more about opportunities like Bill's.