Get set up with a remote ‘knowledge buddy’
“Joining a new company often means adjusting to various new ways of doing things,” says Christine. “Processes that might seem simple when you’ve been in a company for a while may feel completely alien when you’re new – such as booking annual leave, finding the right person to contact for information on a particular topic, or even internal acronyms and project names. It’s possible you’ll feel even more intimidated by this unfamiliarity when you’re starting your new role remotely, rather than in-person.” Make sure you’re prepared for some unusual circumstances: there won’t be someone at the desk next to you who you can quickly ask for help, for example. “If your new manager hasn’t paired you with a buddy after your first week, then take the initiative and ask them if they’d be open to doing so,” suggests Christine. That way, if you’ve got questions about the way the company works – rather than your direct role – you can rely on a friendlier face with one of your peers, rather than constantly bugging your boss.
Take time to prepare for introductory meetings
“As you’ll be aware, meetings and inductions are an inevitable part of your first week or so in a new role, so make sure you apply your usual standard of preparation as you would if you were meeting someone face-to-face in an office setting,” advises Christine. The ideal way to prepare for a meeting is to identify who it is you will be talking to and their role within the organisation, referring to resources such as LinkedIn and the company website, and researching how this person’s role will interact with yours. “This will provide you with helpful contextual information ahead of your first meeting with them,” explains Christine. “Also think about and note down a few relevant questions ahead of these meetings, so you portray an image of an engaged and well-prepared professional.” If you’re a couple of days into your new role and your manager hasn’t organised any introductory meetings, then either take the initiative to organise these yourself, or ask your manager if they are in the schedule for the coming weeks.
Ensure you’re confident with any new technology
“Before you’ve had a chance to become familiar with your knowledge buddy and meet your new team members, it’s likely you’ll need to first become familiar with new technology on your own,” warns Christine. “If you are having a new computer delivered to you for when you start your new role remotely, ensure you test out both the hardware and software before your start date, so that you’re comfortable with using the relevant technology. Also familiarise yourself with any new programs or tools you’ll be expected to use in your new role. Details of these may be on your job description, or you could ask your recruiter or new manager for this information in the lead up to your first day.” Finally, establish the process for raising tech issues. “Having this information straight away will ensure you don’t get stuck – perhaps locked out of your computer – without an immediate solution in place,” adds Christine.
Make a good first impression
“Bear in mind that during those introductory calls, it’s important to ensure you’re representing yourself well and authentically via video conferencing,” says Christine. “Many people are tempted to look at themselves on the screen, or perhaps look at the face of the person they’re speaking to. But actually, you should move your focus to the camera, which will then look as though you’re providing eye contact with the speaker/listener. Be mindful, too, of your body language and posture during these calls and your background.” Crucially, make sure you’re paying full attention during video meetings, even if they’re long. “Appearing engaged and demonstrating that you’re actively listening will help to build a good personal brand in your new role – as opposed to looking uninterested, or even looking elsewhere from the screen,” agrees Christine.
Keep helpful prompts close by
“One advantage of beginning a new role remotely is that it gives you the chance to keep notes and prompts in front of you that you wouldn’t be able to refer to quite as overtly if you were onboarding in the office,” Christine points out. For example, think about making lists of co-workers’ and stakeholders’ names to keep on your desk or saved on your computer, adding details such as their department and/or responsibilities as you learn more. “If you’re feeling anxious or concerned about those first few video meetings in which you’ll need to introduce yourself to lots of new people, why not have a prompt in front of you, which you can refer to if you suffer a ‘mind blank’ or your nerves just get the better of you at any point?” asks Christine. “This prompt can include a couple of bullet points detailing what you did in your previous role, any key career achievements or academic qualifications, and generally anything else that you would like your new colleagues to know about you.”
Set yourself some goals
Once your introductory meetings and inductions are out the way, you should start to feel a bit more comfortable with your role and potential responsibilities. It stands to reason, therefore, that you should focus on setting yourself some goals for what you would like to achieve within your first month, six months and year. “‘SMART’ goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-scaled, and will be crucial if you are to maximise your chances of fulfilling them,” offers Christine. “Your early goals don’t necessarily have to be large ones. What’s important is that they are goals to help you to stay focused during the initial weeks and months in your new role. This will enable you to avoid ‘drifting’ or ‘coasting’ in the absence of colleagues physically surrounding you, and without those every day positive reinforcements you would receive if you were in the office, keeping you on track.” Once these goals are set, ensure you arrange regular catch ups with your manager to update them on your progress. “This will go a long way to helping you illustrate how motivated and driven you are, something that can be a little more difficult as a remote worker,” admits Christine.
“Something to be mindful of in your first few weeks, and in fact beyond that, is your punctuality,” says Christine. “Working from behind a computer at home or in a remote set up might feel significantly different to office working, but it doesn’t mean you should be any less punctual than you would be in person. This includes not just starting work on or before your start time, but also ensuring you are joining meetings on time, if not a minute or so early.” Where possible, try to respond to any questions, requests or messages from your manager, team members, stakeholders or clients promptly, to perpetuate your positivity and willingness to help from the outset, too.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions
“One thing that you should keep front of mind while starting your new role remotely is that you mustn’t shy away from asking important questions about what your work in the coming weeks and months will involve, or any questions around your new role,” insists Christine. “It’s in the interests of your new manager and colleagues that you make a strong start, as much as it is in yours – so they will be more than happy for you to ask as many questions as you like.” Remember – there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but good topics to bear in mind include how you will create value in your new role, how you can quickly make an impact, and the skills that you will need to develop in order to excel.
Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean you should shy away from participating and involving yourself in your new team. “If you’re introverted and don’t feel confident to speak up in virtual meetings, then make sure you’re at least engaging with colleagues through means such as instant messaging or one-to-one calls – whatever makes you feel most at ease,” says Christine. “Don’t forget to also connect with your new team on LinkedIn. Not only will this help to build a closer relationship but seeing their posts will help you to get a feel for the company culture and their areas of expertise.” Remember, getting along with new colleagues isn’t just about discussing work. “You should also create opportunities for non-work-related conversations and activities, such as attending or organising virtual coffee mornings,” suggests Christine. “This will be key to building strong longer-term relationships with them, even when you can only initially communicate with them remotely rather than in person.”
Take proactive steps if you feel disconnected
No one wants this to happen, but in the current climate it’s more than possible. According to Christine, disconnection and even de-motivation are both common and understandable feelings for many new starters, particularly those starting a new role remotely. But there are various proactive steps you can take if you find yourself in this situation. “These include being patient and kind to yourself during this time of transition and adjustment, figuring out what the true root of your discontentment is, and focusing on the positives of your new role,” says Christine. “Also, speak to your new manager about the fact you’re feeling a little disconnected from the team. Discuss how you may be able to improve processes together to boost your productivity and satisfaction in the job in these delicate first few weeks and months.”
Finally, don’t create a habit of overworking
“It can often be difficult for remote workers to draw the line between work and home, which can lead to them developing unhealthy working habits,” warns Christine. It’s hardly surprising given the excess pressure in a pandemic for employees to prove their worth and avoid redundancy. “That’s why my final piece of advice is to establish a sustainable, productive routine that enables you to achieve a healthy work-life balance,” concludes Christine. “Don’t reply to emails late at night or at the weekend. If the nature of your role makes this precedent difficult to set, then aim to limit yourself to just checking your emails once in the evening – only when it’s absolutely necessary.” Similarly, tell your new manager and colleagues when you will usually take your lunch break, or specific times during the day you’ll need to leave your ‘office’ – for example to drop off and pick children up from school.
For more advice and information on finding and starting a new job during the pandemic, visit Hays.co.uk.