How to start a new job remotely

Starting a new job always comes with a fair dose of excitement and uncertainty. You’ll meet new people, learn about the company culture, and get a feel for how well you’ll fit in with your co-workers. That was, at least, how things used to go. But it’s 2020, and all norms have flown out the window. These days, starting a new job is an entirely different experience than it was pre-pandemic. There are no opportunities to chat with co-workers in-person. No tours around the office. No handshakes and welcoming smiles. For thousands of new hires, onboarding has moved online.

In March, towards the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, a survey conducted by Gartner revealed that 88 per cent of employers in Australia had either encouraged or required employees to work from home. While lockdown restrictions have eased since then, people aren’t exactly rushing back to the workplace. Remote work may be here to stay for some time – experts predict the work-from-home model to persist in the long-term for many companies. If you’re starting a new job remotely, what can you do to make the best of it? Here are creative ideas to make the transition as positive as possible.

Use video calls to connect

While you may not be able to meet work colleagues at the physical office, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with them virtually. Put yourself out there. Reach out to stakeholders and set up a time to chat on a video call so you can introduce yourself. This allows you to have face-to-face interactions. It also lets them know you’re happy to be a part of the team and are available to them too. Because everyone is working at home in their personal space – and often plagued with their very personal distractions – you may find that you get to know people better than you would at the office. A pet barking for attention or a child peeping into view is a great ice breaker!

Take your time immersing into the culture

There’s actually a great advantage to starting a new job remotely – you can step into the fold at your pace. There’s no need to learn everyone’s name or to bounce from one brief interaction to the next without time to take everything in and understand everyone’s work style. You can get to know people and processes at your pace. Names are there for you to see on virtual calls and chats, giving you time to learn who’s who, and who’s in charge of different departments and projects. You can also process information in the sanctity of your home. If you have a question or run into a challenge, you can reach out to the right person via chat, voice, or video. You also have time to step back and think about a problem before reacting.

Make it fun

You may not be able to meet up for drinks and tapas after work on Friday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time and bond. There are plenty of online platforms designed for work teams to engage both socially and professionally, such as Facebook’s Workplace and Slack. You can also suggest online team-building games and activities. From virtual scavenger hunts to emoji stories, everyone can use a few minutes of fun these days.

Here are other ideas you can try – present them to your co-workers and see if anyone wants to join:

• Book club – read interesting new books and learn more about what interests the people you work with.
• Coffee talk – meet up online for coffee, snacks, and casual hang-out time.
• Virtual reality team building – you’ll need to rent gear, but a VR team retreat or team meeting using virtual avatars may be one of the coolest silver linings of the pandemic.

Yes, we really are all in this together

You may be the one starting a new job, but you’re not the only one dealing with the challenges of remote work. Reach out and connect with your team – chances are, most people will appreciate the opportunity to meet you too. Observe, learn, and be proactive. And have fun with it. The work environment has changed for millions of workers across the globe, but change isn’t in itself a bad thing. Once you get past the surrealness, you can see change as a chance to take control of your situation and define what you want from this new normal.