It’s finally 2021, which means that, somehow, we’re all sitting on the other side of one hell of a year. Unfortunately, the clocks ticking over into midnight didn’t reopen borders for this year’s vacations. COVID is still here, restrictions still exist, and many of us are still in pyjama bottoms in our home offices.
While we’re not going to complain about staying in our flannels (which are more worn out than they were at the beginning of last year), as people continue to start new jobs and change positions, they’re facing what many had to last year: starting a job remotely.
The idea might be enough to turn some off from accepting a great position. Being the new person is hard, and doing it over Zoom isn’t any easier — especially when your cat won’t get off your desk. Instead of turning down a great chance, though, take a moment, take a breath, and make yourself a plan.
In every office, there’s a different culture, where spontaneous conversation happens and everyone speaks the same language. There are things said and then there are implicit statements about company values.
Unfortunately, this is largely missing over Zoom. Your office may have a Slack channel you can hop onto to just chat, but you may be stuck with stuffy video meetings and emails. This means, more than ever, that you’ll have to proactive:
- We’re all sick of Zoom. While it is fun to see where your boss lives, no one wants to spend any more time in a virtual box. So, take advantage of lifted restrictions (if you can) and arrange to meet up with your manager and colleagues. Invite your team out for coffees so that those awkward Zoom relationships open up into real conversations.
- Make sure you introduce yourself during any meeting and try to arrange one-one-ones online if you can’t do the café. When there’s a screen of faces, people who aren’t speaking fade into the background. Make a point of introducing yourself and let people know you’re new. The more they remember there’s a new team member, the more likely they’ll be to offer a hand. Better yet, request an informal meeting if your boss doesn’t set it up, to introduce you to everyone. Even if the idea makes you cringe, it’s an opening to build relationships with your team.
- If you’re not offered a buddy, request one – in a world without a deskmate, it helps to know where to turn. If you’re in a large office and can’t always ask the boss, find out who your go-to-person is. Online, it’s not always clear who you should ask or email, which is a nightmare when you need a response yesterday. Set up a line of communication to avert potential disaster.
- For anyone you need to speak with, make sure to ask how and when they prefer to communicate. Some of us like texting, some Slack, and some love old-fashioned emails. Working at home’s flexibility means that the way we talk has opened up, so find out what works for everyone.
- Ask about meetings – in some organisations, online meetings are planned to help employees with roadblocks. If they exist, join in! If they don’t, suggest them. There’s a good chance that more senior staff might just be embarrassed to ask questions they should already have answers to.
Don’t Overwork Yourself
I’ve noticed (as have others) that, with smaller budgets, certain companies are expecting staff to take on more while paying the same amount. If you are asked to do more than you were hired for, push back! While times are tough, overworking employees and taking advantage is never excusable.
Again, you’re new — you’ll feel like you’re doing less than everyone. You may have a hard time adjusting, but that’s okay. That’s normal. Take a breath and don’t let anyone bully you into burning out. Starting a job is exciting but it’s also hard, and you’re doing it in a way you’ve never had to before.
Just think: your company is in the same situation. They’re still having to adjust, to figure out how to manage, so don’t feel like you’re the only one at a disadvantage. You were hired for your skills, to do a specific job, so don’t beat yourself down and don’t let an employer take advantage. Even if you’re new, if your gut says something’s wrong, it probably is.
Don’t be afraid…
To ask questions. To reach out. To follow up on that follow up email. Above all, starting a new job remotely means that you’ll have to be more proactive, and for some of us, that may feel uncomfortable.
When we start a new job, we’re often harder on ourselves than we deserve. When you’re learning how to get along in a new office while trying to keep up with a team who has been there for years already, it’s easy to feel like you’re holding others back. The last thing you may want to do is constantly raise your hand.
The senior members on a team aren’t doing their job, however, if newer members are lost. While it’s up to you to be proactive, you should never feel like you’re being a bother. Your job is to learn and their job is to mentor. If the questions in your emails aren’t answered, give yourself permission to follow up and to call out managers who are letting their team slip through virtual cracks. Even if you’re new, you’re just as important as everyone else, and starting a new job remotely doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice.
And lastly, remember: you got this. Being new and uncertain never lasts, even on the internet.
For anyone looking for a bit more zen, check out Part 1 of this blog.