Published on 3rd June 2020
Activity in the employment market may have slowed down due to the pandemic but it doesn’t mean that it has come to a complete halt. Companies are still hiring and looking for talent to fill critical and essential roles.
If you’re starting a new job during this time, you’ll be facing a novel set of challenges that you’ve likely not experienced in your career. These are unique times that we’re living in and dealing with the widespread workplace disruption means adapting to unfamiliar onboarding processes and situations that are not ideal when starting a new job.
It’s normal to feel nervous when starting at a new company. However, when your first day is remote, these feelings might be amplified. You might not be able to meet your colleagues and manager face-to-face for some time. Things like setting up your new laptop and having a welcome lunch with your colleagues are tough to do when you’re sitting alone in your home office.
When you’re joining a company that doesn’t have many remote employees, the virtual onboarding process might be a bit bumpy. It’s important to be adaptable as both you and your new company find your footing going through this process. Apart from being adaptable, remember to also employ an active approach in getting up to speed and adopt a growth mindset during this time.
Minimise the bumps you experience, make a great first impression and get up to speed quickly in your new job with these tips:
Get Yourself Ready
If it's a bigger company that you’re joining, they may have a complete virtual onboarding experience for their new employees in place. On the other hand, startups or smaller firms may not provide the same. Regardless of the company you're joining, be proactive and ask for resources on the company’s policies, culture and best practices. Read up, do your research and get yourself ready by knowing more about your company and role.
If your company sends you computer equipment, be sure to check that everything works well. Start setting up your workspace and get things ready prior to your first day of work. Should you encounter any problems, get in touch with your manager so that you can get IT support. If you need to use your own devices, reach out to the IT team to receive instructions on how you can set up things like your email, file sharing, collaboration tools and other things you might need to work from home.
First (Virtual) Impressions Matter
Set your workspace up so that you’ll make a great first virtual impression. Remove any distractions and noise, make sure you have proper lighting and prepare your headphones for all those virtual calls! When on video calls, be sure to dress up appropriately, just like how you would in the office. Have the company’s organisational chart handy so that you can refer to it during your meetings and put a face to the names you’ll be seeing online and in emails.
Another important point to note, before introducing your kids or pets, read the room! Sit in a couple of meetings first, get to know the culture and wait till you see your colleagues doing the same before bringing in babies and dogs to your video call. Remember, it’s best to be professional and err on the side of caution.
Hello, I’m New
Typically on your first day, your HR or manager might go around the office and introduce you to your new colleagues. It’s a great way to get to know everyone and for your colleagues to offer help. Obviously, things will be a lot different when you’re starting remotely. Your manager will likely introduce you to the team and the wider company through email or a company-wide messaging tool. However, be sure to have a proper introduction ready and let everyone know that you’ve just joined the company when you’re introducing yourself in virtual meetings.
This might be hard to do if you’re generally a reserved or shy person. But, it’s important that people know who you are and that you appreciate any help that they would like to offer. Additionally, you will have to be patient with your new colleagues as you reintroduce yourself several times over the course of the first few weeks on the job.
Meet the Team
Meeting your team and bonding with them is important, even if you’re not physically together. In the office, you're likely to bump into your colleagues at the pantry or water cooler and start a conversation easily. When working remotely, you will have to intentionally set up these interactions. Arrange short calls with your new colleagues, anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Initially, you can start off by getting to know them and their roles. These shouldn’t be one-off interactions. Regularly meet your colleagues virtually to imitate informal interactions that you would typically have in the office. Subsequent conversations can revolve around projects that you’re working on together, the things they’re working on or questions that you may have.
Discover Team Dynamics & Communication
Learn how the team interacts and how each person on the team prefers to communicate. Each company and team has its own preferred channels of communication, be it through emails, messenger, calls or other channels. Once you tune in to how people connect in the team and company, you’ll quickly establish rapport and connections with others.
It also allows you to set expectations with your manager on how you’ll be communicating with them. If you have one-off questions, do they want you to email them, call them or send them an instant message? Other things to consider would be if they’re comfortable with receiving questions as and when you have them, would they need a heads up in advance, or would they want you to collate your questions and bring them up during your catch-ups.
It’s important to be aware of the team's dynamics and communication so that you can have productive and comfortable interactions with everyone.
We’re going through tough times. It’s understandable that you might be extra nervous and cautious about starting a new job, particularly as other companies look to downsize their workforce due to extenuating circumstances. You want to show to your new team and manager that you’re a strong contributor.
Take time to understand the expectations that your manager has around your role and KPIs so that you have a clearer picture of the things you need to work on to succeed. Before working on new tasks or projects, find out what your deliverables are and any deadlines you must meet. You might also be expected to pick up new tools or systems. Again, seek clarity on what is expected of you and if there are available resources you can leverage to get you up to speed.
This is a period of learning and adjustment for everyone as we adapt to working remotely. Your manager might also be adjusting to new routines and might want to check in with you more frequently than what you are used to. Work on building trust by communicating expectations and ensuring that you meet or surpass them.
Lastly, it’s important to create and establish boundaries between work and your personal life. It’s harder to switch off and end your workday when you’re working from home. You’re also the new person and you want to prove your worth by accommodating to others and their requests. Occasionally staying beyond your working hours to finish up your work is fine but ensure that you are taking care of yourself. You wouldn’t want to get burnt out by consistent requests after office hours. Set boundaries with regards to your working hours by letting your team know how they can reach you after office hours if there’s an emergency. Another way of setting boundaries is to refrain from sending out emails in the middle of the night.
Raise Questions & Seek Clarification
When you’re in the office, it’s easier to raise questions and seek clarification. Unfortunately, expressions and body language do not translate as well virtually as in real life. Your colleagues will not be able to read your mind and figure out that you might need their help. It’s hard for people to deduce that you’re lost or confused through video meetings or calls. You have to take the initiative to speak up and voice out if you need something. If you think that your colleagues are too busy or wouldn’t want to help, that’s usually not the case. People are often more willing to help than what you believe them to be.
Track Your Progress
As mentioned earlier, your manager might want to check in with you frequently, particularly in the first few days or weeks. However, if that’s not the case, be sure to update your manager proactively and let him/her know your progress on your tasks and projects.
The volume of online communication during this time is tremendous. Messages, calls and emails are being exchanged frequently and something that you’ve sent to your colleague might get drowned out by everything else. In the office, you can simply walk up to your colleagues and check in with them. When working from home, make sure you’re periodically following up and keeping tabs on your work and any issues that may arise.
You should continuously seek feedback from others and review your progress with your manager at important milestones (i.e. 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, etc.). Constructive feedback will allow you to track your progress and push you to develop and grow yourself further.
Don’t be deterred by the challenges you may be facing due to the current situation. Yes, starting a new job is never easy and starting remotely might make things tougher. However, it’s a great time for you to be flexible, proactive and adaptable to prove your value to the company. Given the current situation, we can expect more companies to employ a larger remote workforce in the future and you might find yourself in the same situation a few years down the road. Seize this chance to prepare yourself for the future!