Opinion: Pandemic grads & the false start to office life

A year into my young professional career but only weeks into office life, I reflect on the impact of graduating during a global pandemic.

Lucy Hopwood Marketing Administrator at FMC Global Talent

University is often sold as the time of your life, which for me was true; up until my, and thousands of other students’, experiences got cut short when the UK was placed under lockdown restrictions. From unknowingly stepping off campus for the last time to naively saying goodbye to coursemates for ‘just three weeks’, being a final year student during 2020 was far from normal.  

But being left to work through the most challenging academic period of our lives remotely was just the first hurdle in the unique journey of being a pandemic graduate. Starting your first post-graduate position is daunting at the best of times – and even more so when you start it virtually.  

Despite beginning my young professional career over a year ago, this month has been the first time I’ve worked within an office – and my ‘return to the office’ has been more than just that. It’s also been the first time I’ve worked collaboratively with a non-retail-based team, the first time I’ve had to contend with the 9 ‘til 5 commute traffic and the first time I’ve had to plan an office wear wardrobe.  

Taking these into consideration, when asked in July when I wanted to begin working from the office, my honest answer was I simply didn’t know. Now, all of these are just minor inconveniences that are part of my new daily routine – but when combining them alongside still being early on in my career, they came as a worry at first. 

Speaking personally, I found the transition surprisingly straightforward. Although, my first day in the office did feel like my first day with the company – a feeling which was replicated by many of my university friends in the same position. Between a great company culture and an understanding manager, this was soon quashed and I’m now enjoying chatting with colleagues and working collaboratively without it being via a webcam!  

As more companies are returning to the office, I think it’s incredibly important for employers to recognise that every single person has experienced the past two years individually. Not only could recent graduates be feeling overwhelmed – both old and new employees have been affected in different ways by the pandemic and will share different opinions on coming back to the office. 

In my opinion, offering flexible working options which allow employees to return to the office as and when they feel comfortable to do so is the most effective way of going forward. Placed under no pressure to work from the office until myself and my team were ready to, the transition to office life was seamless for us – it can, and should, be for everyone. 

As we reflect on what we’ve learnt from remote working and moving into the office, we look forward to planning what our future of work is going to look like. 

The FMC Future of Work series aims to explore what the future holds for our professional lives. Over the next few months, we’ll be providing weekly updates where we’ll be discussing different aspects of how, where and when we work. 

We’ll also be undertaking some research into what the future of work may look like for us all, and will be sharing our findings with you. There’ll be an opportunity for you to take part in a survey on what you think the future of work will look like,so keep an eye out on the FMC Blog for more information in the coming weeks.