Even under normal circumstances, the process of beginning a new job is always stressful and intense. Doing so in the midst of an international pandemic brings an additional set of concerns and variables. When the UK’s national lockdown first began, two new employees came to the Data Lab, and we asked them if they would discuss how things went for them and if they would share their best “first-day” insights for those also starting a new job during the COVID-19 era. Read this blog from Charles Hunter regarding social skills and your career.
A great thing to do to alleviate first-day stress is to do a test run of your technological capabilities. Just about everyone starting a new job is confronted with a computer or data glitch or two. Therefore, it is wise to become familiar with the systems you will be using in advance of the first day. Ensure that you have been granted the access you will need to work effectively from the start. Make sure your in-home equipment is working well so that there are no panicked moments once the workday begins.
Establish a solid workday routine, and make sure you stick to it
In a more conventional office setting, you would likely have a series of introductory meetings framed around the time availability of your colleagues. During the COVID era, everyone is handling a whole new range of responsibilities, including childcare tasks, so it can be somewhat difficult to get everyone on the same page for a meeting. As such, it is wise to try and have a set schedule for things such as your tea break, lunch, and perhaps even a small amount of exercise. That way, you will reclaim a bit of control and feel that you have a strong structure to help you move forward.
Be prepared to ask questions of your new co-workers, but try to do so in order of actual importance
While it is tempting to seek out every detail available at the start of a new position, there is no need to submerge yourself in information overload. Those with whom you are working may not have the time to attend to every question that pops into your head, so try to ask the most critical ones first, letting the rest of the information make its way to you in due course.
Make the effort necessary to establish connections with new colleagues
There is no doubt that initiating new relationships over Zoom calls can be awkward, but the fact is that online forms of communication can actually facilitate more casual outreach that will serve as the foundation for long-term professional collaboration. For many, sending an email message or an online chat request is much easier than ambling around a large office and stopping at different desks to engage in introductory banter. Spend some time learning the names and roles of those on your team and send them a message inviting them for a quick “hello” meeting so that you can learn what they do within the company and about them personally.
Try to get a strong read on the company culture
Though some may worry that a shift to a fully remote workforce will decimate a positive corporate culture, there is no need to fear. The sense of togetherness that can be fostered by necessity during unusual circumstances such as those created by a pandemic can actually draw workers into closer alignment and a mutually supportive stance. Everyone is facing the same challenges, and therefore everyone tends to be more willing to help where needed.
Take it easy on yourself as you embark on this new professional adventure
Though we understand the desire to be a hard-charging career-oriented worker, the unusual times in which we are living really do require the giving of grace. It is not always realistic to hold ourselves and our colleagues to exactly the same standards that might apply in a typical office environment. Everything is different, and all of us are handling a host of new responsibilities, commitments, and concerns.
Though you may feel pressure to go the extra mile at all times to reinforce the idea that the company did not err in bringing you into the fold, remember that your colleagues surely realize the often bizarre facets of starting a job remotely. Jumping into a new role with both feet is certainly important, but in these unprecedented times, the old rulebook may no longer apply. Be honest, forthright, and dedicated in your new position, and your efforts are certain to be noted and appreciated. In this way, expectations will be understood on all sides, and the transition can be smoother than you may have expected.