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Working from Home as a Manufacturing Intern: The Yin and Yang

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I began working for Itron in June 2019, and during my time here, I have worked on a variety of projects involving gas products, both from the Waseca, Minnesota plant as well as from my college town in Mankato, Minnesota. Interestingly, the past few months of my internship happened to fall in line with social distancing measures that were implemented to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Although transitioning to working from home full time was intimidating, Itron’s flexibility, efficiency and diverse culture provided us with the resources and support we need to be able to work effectively in such an environment. With a few months of working from home now under my belt, I’m glad to have the opportunity to reflect on my personal experiences during this time because working from home is a whole new experience for me in itself! Working from home, like many things, has a yin (con) and yang (pro) nature.

Yang #1: You’re at Home!
This might sound obvious, but the best part of working from home is exactly that – you’re at home! During the workday, all the comforts of home are right in front of you. This might include taking a nice stroll in the backyard to get outside or simply munching on your favorite snacks while working before ordering food from places nearby. Nothing beats being able to cook your meals at home with ease. Sometimes I even wonder, “Why haven’t I worked from home before?”

Yin #1: Your Team is Also at Home
I’m a natural when it comes to being an extrovert, so I thrive when I can chat with my fellow coworkers face-to-face during the workday. I enjoy hearing about how everyone’s day is going, whether they are taking a day out of the weekend to try something new, or simply what they are working on. Working remotely can feel lonely at times. Luckily, through virtual team meetings once or twice a week, we are able to overcome these barriers and reconnect more easily than ever – it’s all about putting in the extra effort into communicating with your peers.

Yang #2: Commuting is Two Footsteps Away
My new way of commuting to work has been a breeze. Going from my bed to my workspace is far more pleasant and much quicker compared to driving my route to the office. The extra hour or two that I am no longer in a car allows me to be productive in terms of my daily routine. For instance, I have time to make myself a nutritious breakfast as well as meditate before I start my workday. As a result, I feel more focused and grounded during my weekday mornings, especially with a fresh cup of hot tea.

Yin #2: Distractions Are All Over the Place
Depending on the type of remote work environment you’re in, it can sometimes be difficult to concentrate on your work. The noise from outside, distractions from family at home (or in my case, the loud music playing from my roommate’s room), calls and text from friends checking in, and the endless pressure from chores you have yet to do— they’re always present when working from home. To prevent these disturbances, the first thing I now do is put my phone away in silent mode and use a noise-canceling headset to block out all unwanted noise.

Yang #3: Work is Still Effective
Given the circumstances, I’m grateful to still be able to gain the knowledge and experience from working for a company that enables the safe, reliable delivery of energy and water. The one-on-one meetings that I have with my manager have not only helped me stay on track with my projects, but it has also taught me to become self-disciplined in my work ethic while working away from the office.

Yin #3: Lack of Equipment to Work Efficiently
Working as a manufacturing intern, it is sometimes necessary to use hardware equipment for assigned projects. However, many of these tools are quite hazardous to bring home. Fortunately, Itron has always provided their interns and employees with facilities and equipment to work efficiently from anywhere. For example, I was provided with a second computer, which I have kept at my desk in the Waseca office so that I can remotely access that computer from home to control the equipment I need.

Dealing with the Duality [Yin and Yang]
During this time, I try to remind myself that my internship is meant to be a learning experience. Overall, I have found that working from home can be just as helpful as an onsite experience if you focus on the tasks you’re assigned first and communicate openly through virtual meetings and emails. Working from home has made me a strong communicator, a better problem solver and a more efficient worker in the field. As I reflect on my experience over the past few months, I can say that it is something that will help me for the rest of my life.