Dual study at Bayer during the COVID pandemic
It goes without saying that the COVID pandemic has restricted our leisure time, but my work life and my life as a student at Bayer have also changed drastically. In this blog entry, I’d like to address the three main things that have changed for me as a dual student.
A brief word about myself: my name is Justin. I am 19 years old and participate in Bayer’s business informatics dual study program. In my third departmental deployment, I was given the opportunity to write this blog entry. When I started studying at Bayer in the fall of 2019, the COVID pandemic hadn’t yet begun. Now it is omnipresent, so I can describe to you the radical changes as I’ve experienced them.
The first major change is working from home. For me it’s a blessing. I can save myself the daily commute to Leverkusen and back, which gives me about three hours of extra time every day. It’s also very nice to be able to organize my own work schedule. As Bayer is a global company, I frequently have meetings with colleagues who are based all over the globe. Video conferences with Asian colleagues tend to take place in the morning, while meetings with colleagues in the Americas happen either in the late afternoon or evening. Working from home gives me the opportunity to then extend my lunch break by two or three hours in order to get some exercise, for example. After that I attend the later meetings and therefore almost never exceed my core working hours. What’s more, all the necessary hardware – such as a laptop, mouse and headset – is provided by Bayer, in this case by my department. That means it’s possible for practically everyone to work from home without any additional expense. On the other hand, almost no household has the advantages of a Bayer office: several screens, a comfortable office chair and a height-adjustable desk. That is why I still regard the office as a very attractive workplace, especially if you cannot create an ideal work environment at home. Personally I am privileged to be very well equipped at home, but that’s not the case for all of my fellow students.
The second major change for me involves social aspects.
Not only is the equipment usually better at the office – when working from home, you also miss other things that we generally take for granted. Above all, I miss interpersonal dialogue. Small talk at the coffee machine or a brief visit to a neighboring office. Unfortunately, for the time being we have to do without these often informal exchanges that are nonetheless essential for the team atmosphere. Prior to the pandemic, it was always very pleasant to be able to chat with colleagues or briefly solicit their advice “just because you could.”
Prior to the pandemic, you could just pay a quick visit to your neighbor’s office. Now, during the pandemic, I usually have to write several messages to ensure they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes I even have to arrange a specific time. Such communication aspects have become much more complicated when working from home. Yet Bayer is aware of this situation, and provides the employees with guidelines for how to make up for this lack of dialogue as well as possible. There are weekly meetings at which people have breakfast or coffee together and can chat with one another. Usually the conversation topics at these meetings stray far from work matters. As the new guy at the office, these so-called “creative meetings” help me particularly to become better acquainted with the people with whom I work. It’s nice to know what interests your colleagues pursue besides their work. It gives you the feeling that you know your team better and are a part of it. This promotes cooperation and a sense of togetherness, and greatly facilitates my integration into the team. In my view, there is definitely sufficient virtual dialogue at Bayer, but it nonetheless is not always comparable with a face-to-face conversation. In the two departments I’ve been based in during my time working from home, it has been my experience that both teams went to a great effort to optimally integrate us students. The managers and team members took a lot of time to familiarize the students with the new projects. I always welcomed this communicative approach by the teams, and that always made it possible for me to become quickly integrated into the team.
The third aspect of the pandemic-related changes involves my time at the university of applied sciences. FHDW Bergisch Gladbach University, with which Bayer cooperates, obviously also was not able to maintain on-site instruction. This meant that all the lectures took place online through Microsoft Teams. I can participate in the lectures without any problem, also thanks to the hardware provided by Bayer. The university was able to transition its entire on-site instruction to online lectures without any interruptions in the teaching activities. I would like to take this opportunity to explicitly mention the lecturers who managed to convey the subject matter to us well despite complicated conditions. Participating in lectures from home – in other words distance learning – has been much more challenging for me than working remotely. In the work environment you have assignments to complete or meetings to attend. You of course want to reward the leap of faith you get from the department when working from home with good, thorough work. That’s why it’s not a problem for me to concentrate on my work. With online lectures, on the other hand, it is difficult to remain focused the entire time because there are lots of distractions at home. Particularly if the topic isn’t especially exciting or I simply can’t concentrate any longer after three hours of a lecture. On-site instruction at FHDW Bergisch Gladbach University created a much better learning environment for me than trying to study at home. Ultimately, it’s all a question of discipline because when studying for the exam at the end, you have to make up for what you’ve missed through painstaking self-learning.
My realization after a year of the coronavirus during my dual study program at Bayer is that people will continue to work from home to some extent even after the pandemic ends.
The COVID pandemic has shown us that working from home is an expedient and practical form of work that will supplement our everyday professional life. In my opinion, however, the advantages of working at the office are too significant to completely transition to working from home. With regard to online lectures, I believe the advantages are too few and the disadvantages too many for this type of learning to be permanently maintained. Bayer has proven to be a very good employer for me during the pandemic and has enabled a smooth transition to working from home. Furthermore, I can continue to work normally from home and maintain my studies without any delays. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys such privileges in this time of pandemic. I nonetheless look forward to returning to the office and seeing my colleagues again post-coronavirus. However, the conclusion I have reached during this time is that five days a week in the office is definitely too much for me personally, and I see a balance between working from home and at the office as the ideal solution for the future.