9 tips for starting a new job remotely

Even if most of the emails you receive hope to find you well, it is easy to feel lost “in these strange and uncertain times”. This can be when making a small decision like which shop is most likely to have eggs at this time of day, or when making a big decision like changing jobs.

Many of us are still adjusting to a new kind of office life. Delayed entry to a meeting has gone from “sorry, long commute” to “sorry, I was on mute”, and we’re sharing screens rather than snacks. Perhaps you too were tempted to weather this storm of uncertainty by clinging to the familiar, but were unable to let an exciting new opportunity pass you by. If you’re facing the prospect of a remote induction and you’re not sure when you’ll meet the people delivering it in person, try easing the transition with these suggestions:

1. Switch up your space 

If, like me, you’re starting your new job relatively soon after finishing your previous job, you might be in need of some small adjustments to make this one feel new. It’s normal that, despite your best intentions, you may have spent the past few weeks slowly checking out of your old job as you wrapped everything up and your mind started to move on to the next thing. Suddenly, here we are at said next thing, and lockdown monotony has hampered your ability to process what day of the week it is, let alone the fact that you’re about to start a New Chapter. If you’re able to sit somewhere else in your home, consider doing that. If your space is limited, I found that switching seats and acquiring some celebratory new stationery to be enough to spark that BNJE (big new job energy). If you or anyone you know is in need of a stationery treat, my very kind pals have led me to discover Papier and Berylune – can’t decide if this was dangerous or brilliant.

2. Confront the elephant in the Zoom  

Meeting new people is exciting yet can be daunting, especially over “virtual beers” where you are the centre of attention and, due to the limitations of video chat, have to address the whole room at once any time anyone asks you anything. This is not a natural position for us to keep having to adopt, and I’m sure by now you’ve experienced this when trying to catch up with multiple people over video call. It’s understandable that you may find this social simulation a little jarring given that you’re trying to forge connection at a time of atomisation. Accept the awkward pauses, the unmuted mishaps and the inevitable clash of new topics and “no, you go”s. Making the effort to embrace and power through this will ease the flow of the first round of actual drinks with these people, as you can sip up while looking back fondly on your slip ups.

3. Be prepared to repeat your dazzling debut 

Accept that you’ll probably have to give the same sunny first impression more times and over a longer period of time than you might if you could properly mingle with a lot of people at once. While it can be quite refreshing to have no idea who normally sits where or who likes to go for lunch with whom, you also don’t know who’s talking to whom, and when. You don’t want to risk anyone feeling shortchanged by their first interaction with you because you had your camera switched off to hide your wet hair and half-eaten porridge. Putting the same level of effort and genuine enthusiasm into all of your introductions will hopefully inspire a uniform vote in your favour from the team.

4. Reach out between inductions 

It’s natural that without the team there next to you, people won’t see what you’re up to and offer helpful suggestions at the same rhythm that they might in an office. This doesn’t mean you need to struggle alone. You can take as much time as you need to scan the directory and have a best guess at the right person to ask, without the fear of people around you seeing their faces pop up on your screen. If it’s a minor generic query that anyone who’s worked there for longer than 5 days could answer, try mixing up who you approach so that you get to know everyone a little more and, if you’re anything like me, you don’t end up overthinking it and apologising for asking the same person multiple times!

5. Wear the newbie badge with pride 

Not everyone you speak to will know that you’re new. This might be because news hasn’t reached their team, they missed your introductory call, or they’ve simply forgotten. Framing all of your first encounters with your fresh status will often inspire others to be more helpful and give you some extra context about their work. You don’t know what you don’t know – everything they tell you will be helpful at this stage!

6. Simulate the small office interactions 

Ask your new colleagues questions, and not just work related ones. They are more than frames on a screen, they are people living through the same health crisis as you, and you’re meeting them in their natural habitats before meeting them in an office. By the time you’re able to make a cup of tea with them in the kitchen, you’ll know what their favourite mug at home looks like. You’ll recognise the person on their lock screen from having seen them wandering around in the background of meetings.

Imagine how many small casual exchanges you’d have with new people in your first few weeks in an office, and try and fit some of these in around your virtual inductions before the person delivering it starts waving at you and reaching for the end of the call. This can be as simple as asking them on Monday how the lasagne they were excited to make on Friday turned out. If you’re not someone who remembers small details like that, you can even write prompts down as people mention them – no one will know! Remember that you’re not the only one working from home right now – it’s likely that others are also missing those sprinkles of social interaction.

7. Be honest about your experience

No matter how comprehensive and compassionate your induction is, there may still be moments where you feel a bit weird and distracted because this time last week you were fulfilling a completely different role from the same desk. I found the big change of a new job to be intensified by how small and unchanging my life currently feels. It’s ok to not breeze through this transition. It’s also reasonable to let your manager know that some instances are more challenging than others. They offered you this job and want you to have the most comfortable start possible, and it might just be that this ends up taking a little more time and support during a pandemic. The remote induction process is likely to be as new to them as it is to you, and your feedback will help them empathise with challenges other remote new starters may face in the future.

8. Hang up and read up 

Make use of the extra alone time to digest the new material. Being able to end an induction call and immediately go through your notes and ensure you’ve understood everything and can follow the links your colleague mentioned without looking like you’re not paying attention to what they’re saying is a blessing. You can also take the time to have a quick break, a walk around the flat, a lie down or whatever you need to process what you’ve just learned, without being distracted by small talk or surplus introductions as you’re escorted out of a meeting room.

9. Upskill with some e-learning 

Even though you’re in the same place, this is a clean slate. I often find significant moments to be helpful for taking stock and getting around to things I’ve been meaning to start for a while. It’s likely that you’ll have time to fit in some relevant e-learning courses in between your induction sessions, and this is a good time to do so before you start to take on more responsibilities. FutureLearn often have some good courses, and I’m halfway through their introduction to content design. Plus, asking your manager if it’s OK to fit these around your schedule shows that you’re super proactive, just adding some shine to that first impression.

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