Starting a new job during lockdown

New job, same home, different environment!

These are strange times. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced such a jarring and shocking time during the age of COVID-19. So much will be written about this in the months and years ahead. So much is being written about it now. All I know is that things are not the same.

On Wednesday 15 April, I transitioned into my new role at The University of Auckland. This was only about two weeks after New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown, and at that stage there was great anxiety and uncertainty about pretty much doing anything.

I was nervous before starting the new role. Firstly, how on earth do I practically do my new job? Will there be a laptop or PC? Does it need to be disinfected, left for 48 hours, or will I have to wear a mask or gloves? Who will help with me with IT issues? Also, how do I engage with a manager and team I haven’t met in person yet? Eeeek, starting a new job is stressful enough without having to worry about these Corona factors.

Thoughts on starting a new job during lockdown:

The good things…

  • I am fortunate that my new employer had a clear plan for sending me a desktop and receiving IT support from the get-go. There were no hassles in setting up and I was able to access email on the first day.
  • My manager was great at keeping in contact with me in the first few days. She ensured I had what I needed and advised who I needed to talk to if I was stuck. As a side note, I think managers have a critical role in inducting and helping the new employee to ease into the virtual role. My manager even ‘accompanied’ me to Friday after work drinks, allowing me feel more comfortable and less isolated.
  • Thankfully I already knew people at the University, so there was an ease in connecting with familiar people through email and Zoom.
  • I was integrated into team meetings in the first week and quickly identified my counterparts.
  • Luckily I was able to have a week’s handover with the colleague I was replacing.

The challenging things…

  • Building new relationships online is possible, but exhausting. I lost count with how many meetings I had in the first two weeks with staff, employers and students.
  • As a natural extrovert, it felt strange not being able to meet my team in person. I jokingly keep saying that I’m not a chatbot or an avatar! As much as I’m grateful for Zoom, it’s difficult to truly personalise interactions when people are too conscious about not talking over each other, or are all starting straight at the screen.
  • As I’ve not met any of the students in person, I have to think quickly and differently about how I create engagement with them. So far this includes creating a video introduction, sending regular communications in the student newsletters, meeting key student leaders etc.
  • Adapting to new systems and forms of communication takes a while. At my previous employer we used Microsoft teams, where now I’m currently more reliant on email.

The weird thing…

  • The realisation that I am working with people where I can only visualise their face and shoulders. I think there will be a moment of strangeness when I see how tall or short people actually are!

The reassuring thing…

At the end of the day, people are people. Knowing that everyone is going through the same experience with COVID-19 allows for greater understanding and compassion when engaging with anyone new.

The moral of the story is…

Be easy on yourself. As with any new job, you may feel a need and want to hit the ground running on all cylinders. But in this environment, energy is everything. With internal and external stressors at the fore, it is not realistic to operate with the same level of verve.

Pace yourself and be realistic about the current environment we’re in. Be open with your manager and colleagues and know that they acknowledge the circumstances you are in. Seek help if you’re feeling isolated.

Also, look ahead to the time when things will eventually change. Just manage your expectations about how tall you may think some people may be.

#uniteagainstcovid19 #stayathome #wfh

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sheridan says:

    Good article, Andrew! You make some great points.

    I was thinking the other day about how I’ve met a bunch of people over video chat only – so will be a weird experience ‘meeting them for the first time’ when I feel like I already know them!



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