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Five lessons I’ve learned from starting a new job in a pandemic

Many employees are moving their staff to remote working environments on a more permanent basis following the pandemic’s disruption to the norm of the office.

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Many employees are moving their staff to remote working environments on a more permanent basis following the pandemic’s disruption to the norm of the office.

Businesses, like Twitter, have said their employees will be able to work from home ‘forever’, while Google has extended its coronavirus work-from-home order until at least summer 2021.

It’s natural to be nervous when starting a new job, but when you’re starting remotely, it’s a completely different experience.

You won’t naturally bump into people by the coffee machine, have the half-day orientation of meeting people, or necessarily even have a welcome lunch. But there can also be benefits to this new way of working.

In April, I left my job at Boots to take on the role of Senior Creative Designer at Hallam, a marketing, design and development agency in Nottingham. The last three months have gone by so fast, and I’ve already learned so much. Here are my top five takeaways for new graduates who are nervous at the prospect of starting a new job remotely...

1 - Make an effort to have ‘natural’ conversations

When you’re in the office, conversations happen organically. You’ll naturally talk about projects with people around you, or you’ll ask if they can give you their opinion on work - it’s how you develop relationships. I’ll usually have my ear to the ground and know what work’s coming my way - but all this went cold when I found out I’d be starting my new job at home.

I had a certain naivety about starting a new job remotely. It’s been more difficult than I thought, and I understand it can be daunting for new graduates who want to make friends, but it comes with its positives too.

My team has a really good structure to ensure we keep having face-to-face, virtual chats. We have daily morning video stand ups, but we also have daily catch ups throughout the day. This structure has given us the ability to speak and catch up about things that aren’t always work related, and create those more organic things to happen a bit more.

2 - Everyone will be more supportive than normal to you

Going forward, if somehow we do get back to normal, this situation has forced us to change how we’ve worked. It’s forced us to think about how we can work in different ways, giving us new opportunities.

In a weird way, it’s a bit of a shared experience for everyone. If something goes pear shaped, your team mates are with you, and in the trying times of this pandemic, we’re all in this together. In some ways, it’s a bit of a weird bonding experience! And because of that, everyone is making more active steps to be there and have time for each other.

Everyone has been really supportive to me, recognising that it’s a difficult situation to be in. When you first start and there’s people all around you, it can be quite overwhelming. The fact that this hasn’t happened has instead given me the space to focus on my design work, largely uninterrupted.

3 - Expect to face technology challenges

At Hallam, I haven’t had challenges connecting to any company server as they set us up with a MAC, cleaned and reformatted. However, I have had to quickly learn how to use new software.

We use Miro to lead workshops to clients of up to 12 people, who have never used it before. So while learning how to use it myself, I also have to teach other people how to use it, who also have their own technology issues.

There has been one situation where everyone was getting noise feedback on their ends - except for when I spoke. In a design workshop, we ideally need other people to chip in and say their piece, but this feedback issue made that difficult.

We had to quickly find a different way to encourage people to share their thoughts on the virtual call, and have a break during the workshop to find a solution.

Technology issues will undoubtedly happen while we’re working from home. Sometimes you will have to think on your feet - but people will understand, they’ve probably had worse technology issues than you!

4 - Try and separate yourself from your desk

I have tried to stick to a daily schedule during lockdown and as it eases.

I’ll always try and spend the first hour of the morning doing something which is self improving. This might include exercise, or reading - I’m currently reading a book on design systems.

The key thing is to ensure I shower, eat breakfast and take time for a coffee. This time to myself in the mornings is so important, as are my walks in the evening. I need these to switch off, when my desk is so close to my rest space.

I do, however, need to get better at taking my lunches - being at home makes it difficult to not get swept up in work.

5 - Don’t feel scared to ask for help

In a normal situation, one of the best tips I’d offer to new graduates is to constantly be curious. You’re also going to have wobbles - it’s natural to - but you have to believe in yourself and always want to learn.

During this odd situation, you should still follow the above advice. But also, recognise that these are difficult times, and it’s OK to rely on your support network and ask for help when you need it at some point.

Everyone asks for help - it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

 

By Francis Williams, Senior Creative Designer at Hallam and BA (Hons) Graphic Arts & Design graduate