Rose Watson, Careers & Employability Service Manager
Starting a new job is always challenging. As well as learning what the job involves, there is also getting to know your colleagues and managers, understanding the company culture, and working out who you can ask about things and when. These can all present challenges, but when you are working remotely it can feel particularly difficult.
A recent ONS survey showed that 26% of the workforce are working exclusively from home , and this percentage is even higher for graduates, who are more likely to be in digital and professional roles.
Working from home brings additional challenges. Trying to learn a new role and present a professional image is that much harder if you’re having to work from a desk in your bedroom, or you share a workspace with housemates or family.. A survey of 2,000 UK workers found that 52% of workers agree the boundaries between their work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred.
We talked to some recent graduates and students and asked them to share their thoughts and tips on starting your job working from home. Here are their thoughts:
Josh, who has recently started at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said ‘I am a social person and part of the joy of starting a new job is meeting people, but working remotely doesn’t give you as much chance for “water cooler chat”.’ He suggests scheduling time with your new colleagues just to chat and get to know them.
Holly who started her new role as Digital Communications Officer at the National Lottery Community Fund in March 2020 agrees. She feels that catch ups on video calls are really important, and little things like quizzes can help to break the ice and help you find common ground with team mates. Her company also provided a buddy, who she could turn to, and she found that really helpful
All our graduates agreed this is really important, but can be difficult to do when you’ve got to message or video call someone rather than turn to a colleague at the next desk. As Josh explained, working from home isn’t as immersive as being in an office surrounded by your colleagues and it’s easy to miss something important when Zoom freezes for the 10th time that day, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you need it.
You can start to feel isolated and doubts and concerns about whether you are doing the right thing can easily creep in when you can’t pick up the cues from people around you. Be proactive in asking for regular feedback so you can understand what you are doing well and what needs to be different. Sarka, who started with with the Careers team as a Student Careers Assistant in October agrees. ‘Its important to stay in regular contact with your manager’ she says, ‘so that you can understand your job better’.
Be a problem solver
Although it’s important to ask questions if you don’t understand or need clarification, see if you can solve the problem first. Many companies have intranets or help guides for their software and processes. As Holly explained, she was sent her IT equipment when she started her new job and had to set it up by herself – there’s no-one to come to your desk to see if you’re on the right lines! Although it can feel a bit daunting, being proactive in solving problems and developing solutions is a useful skill to develop and will likely impress your manager and team.
Be kind to yourself
Starting a new job is always an emotional process and especially so when there’s a worldwide pandemic. Josh says that he spent most of 2020 on furlough so when he returned to work in a new job he felt quite nervous. He found it useful to remind himself how odd the last year had been and allowed himself time to get up to speed. Holly agreed, saying its so much harder to get much of a feeling for the wider company, and what teams beyond your own do. That will all take a bit longer, but you do get used it it. And Sarka’s advice is to take care of yourself, clean your desk, and go for a short walk before/after your working-hours to “replace” commuting.
For many of us, working from home for some of the week at least, looks as though it is here to stay. This will transform where we live, our commuting distances, and our work life balance. There will of course be pros and cons to remote working. Take a look at the following two articles and decide for yourself!