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How to handle remote working when starting work with a new employer

In 2020, the world of work changed forever.

Due to the pandemic, many white-collar jobs moved from office to home and remote working became the new normal (this expression now seems like a cliché).

Some organisations had already embraced the concept of ‘work from anywhere’, they had the technology to manage this, so their staff were able to work from home. Indeed there had been talk about a move to more remote working, however, the global pandemic accelerated this.

In the beginning, during the first lockdown in the UK, this was all a novelty. It was Spring, nice weather, and most people embraced the freedom to work from home.

Nevertheless, that didn’t last long. Like a lot of things in life, there are trade-offs. For example, Zoom fatigue quickly set in. Trying to maintain productivity whilst working from home became difficult as other factors such as caring responsibilities and homeschooling began to take their toll.

Other challenges included managers trying to manage staff and maintain morale remotely. We all began to miss social interaction with colleagues. For instance, things that would normally take two minutes to do took two hours – no longer able to fire a quick question over our desks and get an immediate response, we now have to send an email or a chat and wait for a response which could take anything from two minutes to two hours or even longer.

What about people who have to start a new job and onboard remotely?

I have heard of the new paranoia – people feeling insecure about interaction with their new colleagues – this is particularly marked among inexperienced workers and recent graduates who are making that transition from University life to the workplace to embark on their careers.

It is becoming evident that the absence of impromptu office interactions and social cues which usually help to reassure people about their work is causing some level of anxiety around how people come across on video calls, finding it hard to decipher body language for instance. Coffee machine chats, water cooler interactions and discussions in the lift are being missed.

Company culture

One of the hardest things about starting with a new company is that each organization has a culture of its own. That culture is often made up of unspoken goals and norms and is often wrapped up in a unique language that team members have already learned to speak with ease. There are usually a lot of terms including acronyms which only team members are familiar with and new starters have to learn.

Normally it is easy to do this through the everyday interactions with colleagues I mentioned earlier – hearing conversations and having discussions about what other people are working on etc. As a new starter you would pick up on workplace jargon and you surmise from these conversations what activities are valued and what styles of work are appreciated.

What can you do to set yourself up for success?

Below are some useful tips for remote working and for starting a new job:

Remote working

  • If you can, set up a designated area in your home to work – even if you have limited space, find a corner where you can put your laptop and work stuff and ideally somewhere you can store at the end of the work day after you logoff
  • Check your backdrop and make sure it’s appropriate for any video calls
  • Be disciplined, structure your day to get into the right mindset, have a routine
  • Use tech to help your productivity – your phone Notes app, your Calendar app, Outlook or if you are a real techie check out this article
  • Keep distractions to a minimum
  • Take regular breaks, stay hydrated and try to get out for some fresh air either in the morning, at lunchtime or after work

Starting a new job

Some companies have adapted their onboarding methods to ensure that people onboarding remotely feel part of the organisation from day one. These include:

  • Your manager getting in touch with you before your start date to welcome you and ask if you have any concerns
  • Being assigned a buddy, someone in your team that will support you during those first few weeks
  • Your laptop/phone/equipment sent to you ahead of Day one with IT all sorted
  • A welcome virtual team lunch should be set up so you can get to know your team informally

What you can do to help yourself

  • Be proactive, from the start ask for clarity on your role and the expectations, lunch and rest breaks
  • Find out as much about your team and the organisation including key terms, and a bit about the culture
  • On your first day send out an email to your team introducing yourself, if they use Slack or other collaboration platforms introduce yourself
  • Ask your manager if you can arrange meetings with key stakeholders, not necessarily just people in your team but the wider organisation so that you can see how your role fits into the big picture – this will help you to feel more comfortable and connected to the organisation
  • At each initial meeting ask your manager to introduce you and give you a few minutes to talk about yourself
  • Use the company intranet, SharePoint sites and shared locations to familiarise yourself with the company
  • Be super organised – keep a diary, notebook and record key information – the first 100 days of a new job is usually a learning curve

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The pandemic has brought the human out of a lot of people so kindness is now a thing.

All the best and remember we are here to support you if you need help with your job hunting or for career coaching.

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