Sarah Pye, Corporate Partnerships Manager at Sue Ryder shares her recent experience of starting a new job. She shares what she has learnt about building relationships, managing her time and to-do list and staying positive during this time.
Her on-boarding for this role would have usually included every day in the office, meeting new colleagues in person and visiting front-line services. With all of this cancelled, she had to reset how everything was done in order to hit the ground running and get to grips with her new role.
Three months in, here’s what she learnt.
“On Monday 23 March 2020, the UK entered lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus. That morning, I sat at my kitchen table and took a call from my new line manager on the first day of my new job, to discuss the week ahead.
Here’s five things I’ve learnt through starting my new role remotely.
1. It’s very possible to build positive relationships
Starting a job during lockdown has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
I genuinely believe that lockdown has accelerated the relationship-building process. My colleagues have been so gentle and kind while I juggled starting a new job alongside looking after an energetic 2.5-year-old. In my first fundraising team meeting when my daughter decided to mount my chair and practically perch on my shoulders, no one batted an eyelid. I have met colleague’s children, partners, dogs and cats – and we are all the more connected for it.
Top tip: Building personal connections is vitally important so make time to have short catch ups with your colleagues. Everyone is busy but take time for a virtual cuppa. They are just as important as formal inductions. Ask first and try to pick a clearer time in their diary.
2. Be kind to yourself
You may have heard the expression:
“We are not working from home; we are at home, working during a global pandemic.”
I have repeated these wise words to myself many times. At times I did feel drained in my first couple of weeks as my brain worked overtime to cope with the strange circumstances and what was happening in the world. Am sure everyone was feeling like this. We have all had to adjust to being at home and having virtual meetings.
As a new starter, you’ll probably have a large number of virtual inductions. Space out these meetings if you can. Back-to-back video calls are really tough. If like me, you find yourself with lots of meetings, block out chunks of your diary so you have time to do your work.
Top tip: There is so much information to take in when you join an organisation, so be kind to yourself. Take things slowly and make time to read and gather your thoughts.
3. It’s ok to go at a slower pace
I started my role with a clear three-month plan. Now I am in month four, there are elements of it that I have yet to complete. In some ways, we are more agile than ever and many organisations like ours will have pulled together and rolled out an emergency appeal in record time. I have accepted that my own workload is ticking along a little slower than I would like. At no times have I felt pressured by my employer.
My inbox feels like it is bulging and my task list has never been longer, but as we have heard so often, these are unprecedented times that have affected our whole lives, not just our working life. It helps enormously if your employer is accepting of that and is more concerned about staff wellbeing.
I am incredibly lucky that my toddler has now been able to return to nursery. If you’re home-schooling when you take on a new role, it’s very likely that you will simply not be able to work at your normal pace. This doesn’t mean you should work through your lunch to try and catch up. I’ve tried this, it doesn’t work, and left me feeling frazzled.
Top tip: Make time for a lunch break, go for a walk and cook yourself some nutritious food to set yourself up for a more productive afternoon.
4. Grow your network and take time to learn
Lockdown has provided a wealth of opportunity for learning – many job seekers and furloughed employees are attending an abundance of webinars. I can truthfully say I have learnt more in the last three months than I have in the last three years because I’ve taken advantage of these things too, making space for them in my working day.
I have also received a tremendous amount of support from former colleagues and people in the sector I have never met. Speak to people working in other charities and reconnect with people in your network. Now is the time to lean on one another, ask how they are coping, share your challenges and experiences.
A Zoom lunch with old team mates is a real pick me up.
Top tip: Take advantage of all the learning opportunities you can. Online conferences and webinars are cheaper than in-person events (remember when you had to negotiate the cost and getting time out of the office?!). Usually you can watch recordings whenever you like rather than at a specified time.
5. Switching off is hard
I haven’t a lot of experience of working from home prior to lockdown and I do find it hard to switch off. I have discovered I get lots of ideas in the evening and want to whip out my laptop there and then. Learning to switch off outside of my normal working hours has been a slow process. I have found it especially tricky as an eager new starter!
Regular catch ups with your team and keeping an open line of communication with your line manager will help. I have had plenty of encouragement to take regular breaks and it is slowly sinking in.
Many people I have spoken to are struggling to switch off. Listen to your body, if it’s hard to get going in the morning, you may be feeling burnt out. Make sure you take annual leave and get some much-needed time off.
Top tip: Starting a job is always a challenge. Starting a new job in 2020 requires extra care and special attention to wellbeing."
Thanks to Sarah for sharing her experience.
What are your top tips for starting a new job or welcoming a new colleague during this time? Please share in the comments below.
If you are recruiting for new colleagues at this time, we have some tips about on-boarding in our session on 'Switching to virtual recruitment'.