Starting a new job during a global pandemic

04 May 2020
By Dominika
team videoconference
The first of many a virtual team catch up!

How would you describe your first day at work? A bit stressful? Exciting? Or maybe a lot to take in? I think the best way to describe mine would be to say; just in time to pick up my work laptop before the entire country went to quarantine.

I’m not going to lie, it was not a start I imagined – but in quickly learning the atom way of life, I realised that while challenges are there to be overcome,there is always a bunch of people who have your back if you struggle! No matter whether you’ve met them in real life, online or in my case, not quite yet.

Here is my weird and wonderful experience of starting a job at atom during the COVID-19 crisis… 

My first day – The last day in the office

I started my job at atom on March 17th 2020. It was a sunny, breezy Tuesday, unusually pleasant day for early spring in London. Yet, there was something in the air… A vicious virus spreading all over the world at a speed of a sneeze or a handshake; COVID-19.

And there I was making my way to the office obsessively spreading sanitizer all over my hands at each and every entrance to the building. My manager came to pick me up at the reception and I got to meet some of my new colleagues from a safe 2-meter distance. At least I didn’t have to worry whether to go for an awkward hug or a handshake…

At atom, there is a long tradition of welcome lunches involving not only tasty food and over 50 of your lovely new co-workers, but also somewhat uncomfortable questions such as “what is everyone’s name and age”, “which atoms are in a relationship” or “who would you throw out of a hot air balloon”.  Mine was a little bit different. There was tasty food, a few uncomfortable questions, but only 6 lovely faces of my new colleagues so the uncomfortable questions were a bit kinder but my answers seemed much more personal. And… I still didn’t manage to get everyone’s name right.

Working from home – The new normal

Despite WFH fully and truly from day two of my employment, a lot of people made the effort to say e-hi, have a little chat with me on slack, or even set up a call with their whole teams! I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about feeling disconnected or left out, but the atom culture seems to be engraved in every action people take and it is super infectious!

Our regular team calls allow me to get to know my teammates and make up for the loss of welcome lunch questions. We even came up with new questions fitting our new digital way of working. Try guessing how tall everyone is in your team next time you start a remote job, it is a good laugh! 

Weekly Atom Pub Quizzes, Friday Drinks, and company WhatsApp group (to mention a few) allowed me to get to know the rest of atom a bit more, and share some love through videos and memes and knowledge through useful sources. Tuesday Yoga calms my mind and unexpected plans like a drink shared through the screen or a movie night keep me going when I feel a bit meh.

Online meetings still bear the chance to be late due to digital commute (aka loading zoom or not being able to find ‘the right room’). We share the screens to share the knowledge and do training, just as we would in the office. And with that in mind, I really have nothing to complain at all! Everyone has been very supportive to help me settle down!

Lessons learnt by starting a job in COVID-19 crisis:

If you are in a similar position like me and have only recently started your job. Here are some tips that helped me power through:

1. Be proactive – It can be easy to go into your shell and avoid getting to know people you work with when you’re not in the office – although, that way you’ll just exclude yourself from the day one! Try to participate in activities outside of your day-to-day tasks, whether they’re work projects or social e-events. Yes, it is a bit scary and a bit uncomfortable but definitely worth it.

2. Don’t assume anything – The most valuable lesson I learned in my first job. WFH digital communication can be a bit slower and less clear so make sure you ask questions if something does not make sense or you haven’t come across it before.

3. Be patient – working from home and running entire businesses is new to us all. Creating functional processes and effective routines takes time, and so does learning a new job. Everything takes a bit longer than it would normally. All you can do is try your best and support your company where you can.

4. Self-reflect – Taking 20 or even just 10 minutes to reflect on the day can help you learn from your own mistakes, identify areas to improve, and just stay on track how you are doing. It feels like nobody knows how they feel now, and that is fine!

5. Take it one day at a time.

What I realised through this experience is that a job is not about the office building and meeting rooms, and the time spent in them. It is about people working together on a shared purpose and you CAN feel a part of a team even if you are sitting alone at home. But still – can’t WAIT to actually meet everyone (hopefully sooner than later).

But you know, I have nowhere to rush… 

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