A global pandemic, a tanking national economy and a state enforced lockdown. What better time to hand in your notice and start a brand new job?

Well, that’s exactly what I did. Now four weeks into my new job at firstlight, I’ve found the remote onboarding process unexpectedly enjoyable. Admittedly, timesheets have been a challenge. How does one categorise twenty minutes spent frantically figuring out how to send gifs on Slack? Admin? But technological incompetence aside, my experience of starting a new job during COVID-19 has been a genuinely positive one. Below, I’ve outlined the top four lessons I’ve learnt from the experience.

1) Get as much face time as you can with your new colleagues

Starting a new job remotely is definitely not the time to fall back on the old “my camera isn’t working” trick. When people don’t see you around the office every day, it’s easy to not notice you’ve joined their workplace at all, so try to initiate video calls with colleagues who you don’t directly work with, just to chat. I was very fortunate in that several of my colleagues at firstlight approached me to suggest these catch ups, which meant I could properly introduce myself to people I otherwise might not have met for weeks or months.

Talking through a task also works better over a video call than through emails or messaging services. This is true for anyone, but it’s especially important when you’re new to a business. Asking sensitive questions is much easier when the person you’re talking to can hear your tone of voice and see your expression. This way you don’t have to worry about being misread.

2) Get yourself some decent stationery and use it to write solid to do lists

One small and generally overlooked joy of starting a new office job is that you usually get a shiny new branded notebook and pens. When working from home, you miss out on that. But don’t be tempted to start taking notes on whatever scraps of paper are to hand. Grab yourself a notebook and keep all your notes organised and in one place. Working remotely, I’ve found that building to do lists and crossing tasks off has helped me psychologically with feeling productive even during the first few days, when much of my time was spent researching clients and getting set up on various systems.

3) Take lunch

One of the major worries when starting a new job from home (when remote working was never your intention) is; will my line manager trust that I’m working hard when they don’t know me yet? As a result, the temptation is to try to prove yourself by working through lunch. Big mistake. I fell into this trap initially but came to realise that taking a break from my screen over lunch is infinitely more beneficial to productivity (and sanity). Remember, in the office you’d be taking breaks from your screen all the time to have conversations and meetings with colleagues. I find I don’t have these short breaks much at home, so lunch is all the more important.

4) Don’t stress, stay positive

What will be will be. COVID-19 has turned the working world upside down. Thousands have lost their jobs, closed their businesses or been forced to let valued employees go, and that’s without touching on those impacted health-wise. If you’re starting a new job during this crisis, regardless of how you came to it, you’re in an incredibly fortunate position. I’ve found reminding myself of this fact has really helped me approach the challenges of remote onboarding with a positive attitude.

At firstlight, I’ve benefitted from joining a genuinely welcoming and considerate team and having a supportive line manager. But ultimately, starting a new role under these unique circumstances will be what you make of it, so I intend to take each day as it comes, and get stuck in.

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