When I got the call offering me the job as a consultant at Traverse, I was on a maternity ward in the Hague visiting my sister-in-law and my new-born nephew. At that point, there were 9 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK and whilst a global pandemic was just around the corner, I did not anticipate that I would be starting my new job under a nationwide lockdown.
Starting a new job is nerve-wracking at the best of times but there is something about meeting your new colleagues entirely over Zoom and Microsoft Teams that makes you feel a bit like you are on a reality show. For the first couple of weeks I was particularly anxious about the messages and emails that I sent as I was almost hyperaware that it is difficult to read tone, especially when you have never met the person face-to-face. Having now been a Traverse member for three months, I have certainly been involved in enough calls, hubs and Friday night quizzes to feel like part of the team and not have to worry. I have also been involved in various projects across the consultation, engagement and evaluation service areas, and developed a whole range of new skills – it is amazing what you can get done from home!
Starting a new job from home in the middle of a pandemic has actually been a much more enjoyable experience than you might have thought, or certainly it has been in my case. Aside from the sunny weather and the patio, my first couple of months have been made easy by the sheer kindness of my colleagues, their willingness to put aside time to answer my questions and also to reach out to me for coffee catch-ups and conversations.
Five top tips for starting a new job in lockdown:
1) Create a space: Whilst this applies to working from home in general, I found that creating a dedicated workspace is particularly important when you start a new job from home. Having my little office space has meant that I have had the routine of ‘going to work’ (aka the spare room) from the very beginning.
2) Talk to everyone: Whether you are in a small enough organisation to speak to everyone or you are part of a team, speak to as many people in your ‘work circle’ as possible! I created a list and ticked colleagues off as and when I had had a formal introduction or an informal chat with them. That being said, reach out to colleagues as and when you feel comfortable, you don’t have to tick everybody off all at once! You will also find that colleagues will reach out to you and that you will get to know people as you work.
3) Ask questions: It might sometimes feel like you don’t want to pester colleagues or bombard them with questions on Microsoft Teams but it is worth remembering that in an office setting, asking questions is part and parcel of everyday life. To avoid feeling confused or overwhelmed, make sure that you are asking questions as and when you have any queries!
4) Get stuck in: It is easy to get into a routine of doing your set tasks and nothing beyond this but I have found that volunteering for various other activities and getting involved in team quizzes has been a fantastic way to develop relationships with colleagues. It also enabled me to feel like part of the team and that I had contributed from very early on which has helped my confidence massively.
5) Enjoy and embrace it: This is a time where you would usually be enjoying the company of your colleagues in a physical space. The excitement of embarking on a new career journey shouldn’t dissipate because you are at home, but instead, try to relish in the excitement of doing new things, being challenged in your new role and getting to know your new colleagues.