Trainee Blog: Jack Chapter 1

Trainee Blog: Jack Chapter 1

“The New Normal”


The phrase “the new normal” seems to have entered into everyone’s lexicon recently, just like our unfortunate familiarity with terms like “flattening the curve” and “social distancing”. Six months ago, the latter two expressions would only really have meant something to someone who was studying epidemiology.

Whereas “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” are now a part of our reality, “the new normal” is still a concept, or rather a prediction, that is up for debate. Will working remotely become a permanent affiliation for the rest of our working lives? Will office environments become the exception rather than the rule?

As a fresh MDS trainee, I am certainly not as qualified to comment on this as those who know their industries through and through. Indeed, I am a blank slate when it comes to food and fresh produce – I don’t come from an agricultural background, nor do I hold any qualifications related to agriculture.

However, my experience is unique in one regard. I have only ever known the current working environment! Unlike people who know what they’re missing out on, I have no benchmark with which to compare this strange new experiment of remote working. I also have no idea what I will be jumping into once lockdown is relaxed enough for office work to begin again – so, do I want this to continue indefinitely? Is the office really the optimal working environment? Other members of Group 47 and I, who have only just started on MDS, are unique in being in this position.

In my personal opinion, remote working is adequate but far from perfect – furthermore, what I imagine office working will be like appeals to me far more than the idea of spending another 3 months in splendid isolation.

MDS and Scottish Agronomy (the company with which I have been seconded) have been fantastic at keeping in touch with me and making sure that I am maintaining some semblance of sanity, in spite of living on my own in a bedsit 400 miles away from home. Friends and family have also been enormously supportive, but the fact is zoom calls are sub-optimal. The endless cries of “Can you still hear me?” and “I think you’re on mute” surely do not come close to matching the rewarding process of working on a project as a team in the real world.

People have tried to make the case that real-world cooperation is more efficient than working remotely or have tried to demonstrate that real-world interaction is good for your mental health. Both of these are probably true but they are not the reason why people want to get back to the office. For me at least, the social aspect of work is the part that suffers most from remote working and I don’t think I’m unique in feeling this way.