Starting a job remotely in a digital agency

Posted on 26/11/2020 by Gemma Walton

Working from home is something that most office workers have had to take in their stride, but what about when you haven’t even set foot in the office before?

Starting a new job can be scary at the best of times, but starting in the middle of a pandemic can create new obstacles.

We’ve had a few new starters join Team Hallam since we started working remotely, including myself. Our PR & Outreach Specialist, Tom Bestwick, is another and just as he mentioned in his article about starting a new role during a pandemic, I would also say it’s been a smooth transition due to the initiatives Hallam’s put in place, but it’s not without its challenges.

Challenges faced

Working remotely has its benefits; getting to stay in the comfort of your own home and the longest commute being from your bed to the desk is certainly a perk! However, a lot of the onboarding tasks that seem simple at first suddenly become a hurdle.

Administration

Each workplace will have its own set of administrative systems. Typically, they’re often completely different from previous workplaces, so the first challenge is learning how to use them.

It’s worth taking the time at the start to set everything up and not be afraid to ask for help.

Learning new software

Starting in a junior position in the Creative team meant having to learn how to use new software without the luxury of being able to pop over to someone’s desk to see how.

Working remotely removes the casual asking of questions so it can feel like you’re being more of a nuisance, but understanding how everyone prefers to communicate can resolve this issue. Whether it’s best practice to send an email with your questions or to set up a call, it’s easier for everyone once you discover the preferred method.

One feature of Slack calls – the draw feature – has made learning from home much easier.

slack draw feature
(Image credit: Slack)

Being unable to have someone show me how to use the software at my desk means screen sharing is the only method. This can mimic looking over someone’s shoulder, but something as simple as pointing at places on the screen is no longer possible. This is where the draw feature of Sack calls comes into its own; I was able to be walked through the new software visually.

Equipment

Depending on what your role is, a simple laptop might suffice; but for my role in the Creative Team, I need a lot more. If I was turning up at the office, this wouldn’t merit a second thought – I would head over to my new desk where everything I need would already be there – but somehow this has to be recreated at home.

Thankfully, Hallam was very organised in this aspect and hired a van to deliver everything I could possibly need, from an iMac and cables galore to an office chair and mouse mat.

My ‘work from home’ set-up

5 ways Hallam helps remote onboarding

1. Remote team lunch

Meeting lots of new people is one of the biggest nerve-wracking parts of starting a new role. ‘Meeting’ now refers to a sea of faces on a screen (which isn’t an ideal way to get to know people if it’s only for discussing work).

That’s why Hallam hosts a virtual lunch for the team and me, the new starter. That way, they can get to know their immediate colleagues informally first. This makes the first day less stressful as you have familiar faces to go to.

2. Hallam Cafe

Small day-to-day interactions with colleagues are often taken for granted in the office. Getting a cup of coffee together or asking if somebody watched last night’s episode of Bake Off all practically seem like luxuries now as we risk becoming siloed within our own homes.

To combat this, Hallam runs a virtual ‘cafe’ every day where you can have lunch together with those who you may not necessarily get to interact with for work purposes. It keeps the connections and culture of the company alive, as well as helping new people get to know everyone.

This virtual connection also runs through the use of the ‘common room’: an ongoing video call that team members can jump in and out of throughout the day for some company while working. Often just knowing that someone else is there can make work seem less isolating; something that is particularly important for those who live alone.

virtual cafe

3. Strong wellbeing initiatives

As a company, we take pride in looking after the mental wellbeing of everyone in the team. This is now more important than ever for everyone but can also be a helpful way to make starting a job in the middle of a pandemic a lot easier. Knowing that the support is there can mean there’s one less thing to worry about as you try to get to grips with the new role and, like everyone, adjusting to life in lockdown.

Hallam has set up mental health initiatives to give people a hand when they need one:

  • There are four mental health first aiders that anyone can go to
  • Coaching buddy system
  • Meditation sessions
  • Access to professional therapy

4. Feel-good Friday

Continuing with things that would normally happen in the office while remote working is a good way to keep a sense of normality, and helps maintain the social side of working life.

Every month Hallam usually has a celebration in the office of good things that have happened, as well as birthdays and anniversaries. It may be a virtual version but it cultivates a good team spirit and gathers the company together as a whole in a positive way.

remote celebration

5. A dedicated mentoring team

Starting remotely means that you have to discover your mentoring team more rapidly than in person. To get help you have to go through emails and Slack messages, which can result in talking to a string of people to get to the right person – much more complex than walking over to someone’s desk!

It’s important to find out who your mentors are at the start, which, in my experience, is very clear from before the day you start. This streamlines the process of getting help and can make you feel supported from the beginning.

Final thoughts…

Although it’s very different starting a job remotely, it is possible to still feel part of the work community and learn new skills – something that would have seemed impractical pre-COVID.

The most important part of adapting to the new situation lies in communication. Making the extra effort to learn about who you’re working with makes a huge difference to the remote working experience and strengthens the company as a whole. At Hallam, the kindness and willingness of everyone to help one another have certainly made my experience a positive one.


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