Just before lock down began, I was taking a much-needed break in Costa Rica, unaware of the crisis that was unfolding at home.
It was only when I travelled back via New York that I started hearing the news, and seeing people wearing face masks in JFK airport. It was surreal. I’d been blissfully unaware of how the pandemic had escalated while I was soaking up the sun, relaxing on beaches and recharging my batteries before heading home to start a new job.
But once I knew the reality of the situation, I felt an overwhelming sense of worry and anxiety. Not quite the desired effect of my Costa Rican break…
So, just a few days after returning home amid the Coronavirus chaos, I was preparing to start my new job. And it wasn’t just a new job, but a completely new role that I was unfamiliar with too. But to complicate matters, I now faced the possibility of remote-working early in my new job, and it scared me!
The First Week
I had mixed feelings on my first day. I was excited and eager for this new opportunity, but I was anxious and wanted to make a good impression too. Looking back, I was lucky to start my new job when I did – a week before lock down began – as I had the chance to meet a handful of my new colleagues face-to-face.
On day one, I took handover from the temp who had been filling in for the past two months. Yet starting my job just five days later, it would have been an entirely different story, and potentially a much more difficult experience. But it has by no means been an easy journey.
I’m grateful for that first week in the office. I had no idea what I was doing and I had a lot to learn. But I’m lucky to have had that brief experience of normality before the chaos began. Then, a few days into my new job, there was talk of a nationwide lock down, and talk of my new workplace closing and moving to remote working.
Being in a communications role, it was my job to get the message out there, even though I was brand new and trying to learn the ropes… it was full steam ahead!
It all happened so fast. I’d only just unpacked my mug and my stationary, and now I was boxing it up again and gathering as much information as I could before I started working from home… and from week two, I’ve been working remotely using just my small Microsoft Surface Pro and a few useful documents I grabbed from the office in my first week.
It’s been a start to a new job like no other. I’ve had plenty of experience of being the new girl in the office, but none quite like this. It has been an emotional roller coaster with ups and downs, pros and cons.
Working remotely has meant that I haven’t met a lot of the people I need to collaborate with on projects, so meeting them for the first time through a Microsoft Teams video call hasn’t been ideal. I don’t know who they are or what their roles are and I don’t have their mobile numbers to get hold of them. So getting in touch with colleagues and finding the information I need to do my job has been tricky to say the least.
I’ve also found that not being in the office environment has slowed down my learning. Normally, I’m quick to pick things up in a new job, but without listening and absorbing office chatter, I’ve missed out on a lot of background information that would help me understand the organisation, it’s history and it’s processes. I’ve found that to be really hard, because it’s the little things that I don’t know yet that keep cropping up and slowing me down, and I just don’t know how things are done yet.
Aside from being distanced from my colleagues and having a lot to learn at the start of a new job, the global pandemic has had a huge part to play in complicating matters, and it has affected my role greatly. With so much still to learn, I was thrown in the deep end of crisis communications for an organisation that still felt alien to me. It’s been the steepest learning curve and it’s been incredibly difficult, turbulent and stressful. But now I can start to see the light at the end of the long and dark Coronavirus tunnel, and some good, if not great, things have come out of the situation!
The (Unexpected) Pros
Although Teams meetings haven’t been my preferred way to meet people, I don’t feel like it’s stopped me getting to know my new colleagues. In some ways, its been an insightful experience, because I’ve been able to see them in their natural habitats. We’ve laughed and joked as children, dogs, cats and the postman make unexpected visits during our team meetings, or when one of us hasn’t noticed we’re on mute and we’ve been chatting away unheard by everyone else. It’s been great to see my colleagues relaxed and wearing comfortable clothes they might not usually consider for work. We’ve even enjoyed virtual Friday drinks after work, and overall, I really feel like I’ve bonded with them already.
Another positive about lock down and working from home has been the fact that I don’t feel like I need to dress up, do my hair and put make-up on to make a good impression. That in itself has been refreshing and my morning routine has become so much shorter and quicker. I could certainly get used to that! I know it’s just a small thing, but it’s the little things that count.
One of the most unexpected positive outcomes of the whole situation has stemmed from all the challenges and difficulties I faced. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and I reached out to other people in similar roles to ask for help. I joined supportive Facebook groups and even managed to secure a really knowledgeable and helpful mentor, who is willing to share her experience and best practice with me. We are only at the start of the mentorship journey, but I know it will continue long after lock down ends.
But above all, the best thing to come out of this situation is the realisation that I am part of a fantastic team. Despite the challenges that have been thrown our way, we’ve overcome all the obstacles to pull together as a team and get the job done. I’m not the only newbie either. Three other members of the team joined not long before me, so we’ve all been in the same boat. In some ways, I think that’s made us feel closer, as we understand what each other is going through, and the peer support has been invaluable. I’m also really grateful for the help, understanding and support that has come willingly from the rest of my colleagues and my manager. Lock down has turned out to be an unusually busy time for us, but collectively, we’ve achieved fantastic results, which is even more impressive considering that half of us are brand new.
All in all, the past three months (a.k.a the first three months) have been a very steep learning curve. There have been moments of despair, feelings of anxiety and a boat-load of stress. But I’m lucky to feel supported, and part of something much bigger than just myself. It’s been hard, but I’ve just been trying to remember that the storm will pass and I’ve dug deep to find the resourcefulness and resilience that has got me through it.
Now, as talk of lifting lock down begins in earnest, I’ve reflected on how far I’ve come already and I’m looking forward to returning to a normal way of working. I think going back into the office will almost feel like my first day all over again, but with people I already know and look forward to becoming good friends with.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever experience another new job quite like this one!