How to ace starting a new job while working remotely

Starting a new job is a bit weird when you can’t meet your colleagues as we’re all still working from home due to lockdown. And as the default setting might be working from home for some months to come, many more people will start new jobs having not met their team.

So how can you make sure you’re off to a flying start, despite the disadvantage of not being able to meet people in person? I spoke to two clients who faced just this situation to ask for their tips, plus an employer who has also had new team members start their jobs during lockdown. Here’s what they shared.

Check your tech

There’s nothing worse than starting your new job working from home and getting to 9am on day 1 before realising your technology isn’t going to work, or you don’t know how to use the programmes you need to. Ask questions before you start about the platform and technology you’ll be using and try to do a trial run.

Many employers will provide you with a laptop and mobile phone, so make sure you can log in ahead of your first day to avoid untold stress! And check things like your mobile signal and internet connection to make sure these are going to be barriers to a smooth start.

Ask if there’s a plan

A good employer will have a plan for your first day or perhaps your first week, which is likely to include some kind of induction along with introductions to key people. This is the same regardless of whether you’re starting a new job working remotely or from an office.

Jayne, one of my clients who started a new role during lockdown, had a great experience: “The HR department provided me with an induction plan, which included a number of meetings with managers of each business area that they had set up on Teams. This was a great way of making me feel really welcome and being able to get dedicated time with each manager to find out more about what their area of the business covers and also put a face to a name.”

If that’s not already set up for you then creating your own list of key people and arranging introductory chats will help you start to put faces to names and help everyone else get to know you too. Asking for a structure – with pictures ideally – will help you piece together who is who.

Be patient

Andy Firth is MD of Ascensor, a Leeds-based digital agency which has taken on a few new staff during lockdown, says that patience with colleagues has been the thing they’ve needed most from new starters.

“Everyone still has their own stuff going on and is trying to juggle life and working from home. So although it can be frustrating to wait for an answer, trust that there is a plan and that people will get back to you as soon as they can.

“This patience needs to work both ways. We know new starters are joining us at a time which isn’t normal, and we’ve put in place different ways to welcome them into the organisation, including sending good information to them before they start. I always spend the first hour with new starters talking through that information, which includes insights into our culture and the way we do things. We’ve maintained that via video call while working remotely.”

Jenny, another client who started a new job in the first week of lockdown, agrees that colleagues are likely to be patient and empathetic with people who are starting a new job while working remotely, and said her team used email and chat functions as well as video calls to stay in touch and answer quick questions.

Don’t feel under pressure to perform instantly

In any new job you are unlikely to be expected to perform brilliantly from day 1. There’s always a period of getting to know the organisation, its priorities and your role in it. This settling-in period can be even longer when working remotely as you don’t get to pick up on conversations in the office or other cues, so don’t be afraid to join meetings and just listen to start with.

Jenny said listening was one of the most important tips she’d pass on. She said listening allowed her to pick up where she could add value, created chances for her to deliver some quick wins, but most importantly it allowed her to start to understand the organisation and her team on a deeper level, which will be important for the future.

Andy emphasises this point particularly: “Get the balance right between contributing and listening. Your new colleagues know you have a lot to learn about the business so don’t feel you have to say something every time, but if you have a great idea or can bring your experience to bear then don’t be afraid to step forward and say so.”

Create a workspace – and decent boundaries

Jayne recommends setting up a dedicated workspace where you can work – hers was at the dining table as her husband was also working from home and had already commandeered the office! “Having a space to work means your entire downstairs isn’t taken over by work stuff,” she said.

But Jayne also packed everything away at night so she wasn’t constantly reminded about work. This helped to create healthy boundaries and a chance to switch off – as did a walk in the evenings, which played the dual role of helping Jayne get some exercise but also decompress from the day.

With working remotely likely to continue for some time yet more people will start new jobs without going to the office to meet their team. If you’re considering a new job and worried about how to ace starting a new role while working remotely, give me a call for a free no-obligation chat about how my career coaching can help you.

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