After I completed my internship at Infosys in India last summer, I wanted to get to know a major German corporation this summer. Thus, I accepted an internship offer in the strategy department of Bertelsmann at the beginning of the year. But then everything came differently: Instead of being at the headquarters in Gutersloh, I completed the internship from my home office in Cologne. A review of my experiences with online meetings, network disruptions, and virtual coffee breaks.
It is quite bizarre. I always thought that my internship in India was unusual. At the time, I lived in Bangalore and worked for Infosys, the second-largest IT company in India. To make my way between honking rickshaws, colorful trucks and wandering cows was always an experience. But this summer was to become even more exceptional: I did not have to set a foot on any street to get to my workplace since my desk is only two meters away from my bed and it was from there that I completed my internship.
Like many of my fellow students, my summer internship was restructured at short notice. Due to infection control measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, Bertelsmann's management decided to close the Corporate Center in mid-March. For the employees of Germany's largest media group, which owns companies like the RTL Group, Penguin Random House, and Gruner + Jahr, this meant months of work from their homes. For me, it meant never meeting any of my colleagues in person.
But how did it feel to be working remotely? What were the advantages and challenges of working from home? And why do I draw a positive conclusion overall? One of the biggest advantages was probably that I was not tied to a particular location and could work from almost anywhere, as long as a stable internet connection and quiet environment were given. This allowed me to spend more time with my family and to prepare a fresh lunch every day. In contrast to an office, a quiet and friendly environment also had the advantage of a more efficient task handling. Coupled with flexible working hours, I found that I enjoyed doing research work and creating PowerPoint presentations on the couch in the evenings, while I dealt with strategic matters primarily in the mornings at my desk.
Of course, working in the home office also brought its challenges. It was much more difficult to get to know people and network, as there were no shared lunches or chats in the coffee kitchen. To compensate, we tried to organize virtual coffee breaks to get to know each other in a more informal setting. Network disruptions, in turn, led to interrupted conversations and temporarily inaccessible documents in the cloud. Although such events occasionally led to frustration, they were easily compensated for by the aforementioned advantages.
Overall, I am very grateful that I was able to gain extensive insights into the working world at Bertelsmann despite occasional challenges, which is why I draw a very positive conclusion. Looking back on my internship, I have above all noticed how important it is to be able to exchange ideas informally with colleagues and to be in a relaxed and pleasant working atmosphere. With an eye to a new normality and the return to office life, I hope that we have learned from the past few months and will succeed in making the transition to a new, hybrid working world.