When the Cat’s Away, the Mice will Play

Starting placement – as all those who have done so before us will tell you – is strange. For many, it’s the first time you’ll be surrounded by people who are not at the same point in their lives as you, but with whom you are spending most of your time. I would love to say I could relate to my married colleague with two kids off the bat, but alas, I cannot.   

This sentiment I am placing before you quickly starts to replicate the cliché that is the “daunting” start to a “new beginning” that will turn out “just fine”, because it is. A few weeks in and you best believe I’m now cracking jokes on Microsoft Teams. With every week I now go to work, I realise that a [virtual] office isn’t too far off from the university library.  People are constantly snacking, litres of coffee are consumed and, most importantly, nobody is against having a good time whilst working. However, here is the question that I am still trying to answer: what is acceptable for me to do once my camera is turned off and my colleagues are no longer able to hear or see me? 

At university – and here comes another cliché – I am quick to dismiss a lecture for a hangover lie-in or to procrastinate an essay to watch another episode of Baby, but at the beginning of my placement I just couldn’t muster this same nonchalant attitude towards my responsibilities. However, while I was once too nervous to do my dishes, I am now getting my tan on and receiving the full scoop of friends’ office gossip. As I got more dauntless with the things I did to break up my workday, I started to wonder what everyone else was up to. Thankfully, my friends provided some relatable content, and inspiration for what I will be doing during tomorrow’s 3pm dip.  

The first confession, admittedly very timid, was the turning on a camera rather than a microphone. Of course, no one wants to be caught off guard looking like Aunt Shirley from the Office, but this wasn’t anything too spicy. Quickly the answers started to get better. One friend confessed they had been caught in bed with their partner when their boss called unexpectedly. Having half a brain, they didn’t turn on their camera to reveal the awkward situation they had found themselves in, but nevertheless this is still a great story. In fact, most of the responses I got were from in bed. Naps in between meetings, unplanned meetings in bed, and crucially, planned meetings in bed.  

Now, before my employer finds this, I have to justify myself: I am still doing my blood-sweat-and-tears best. BUT, I am also acknowledging that my 20-year-old self didn’t cease to exist the day my placement started. 8 hours of continuous work is tough on anyone. And let’s face it, when the camera’s away, the students will play.  

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