It’s natural to have first-day jitters when you start a new job. But what happens when you are starting a job while remote? What if many days after that are also remote depending on how long the company keeps folks home as a result of the coronavirus? And what if you aren’t able to meet your manager and colleagues in person for a while? How will you get to know your coworkers, get up to speed on how to do your job, or even know who to contact when you have questions?
As companies move their employees to remote work to stem the spread of COVID-19, new employees will likely be on-boarding virtually. Instead of the typical half-day orientation where you pick up your laptop, supplies, and paperwork, and then enjoy a welcome lunch with your new colleagues—and the next few weeks of bumping into new people around the office as you get your bearings in your role—all of this will need to be handled from a safe distance.
For companies that already have a lot of remote employees, this might not be a big deal. But for organizations that aren’t accustomed to having employees work from home, let alone welcoming and training them from afar, the on-boarding process and everything that comes after could be a little bumpy.
It’s scary to try to make a start with a new company when starting a job while remote. Keep in mind that the company hired you for a reason. Give yourself time to onboard and to become comfortable working in this new strange environment.
Here are seven tips to help you navigate starting a job while remote
- Understand Expectations
Since your manager and colleagues won’t be working in the same building, you can’t just stop in to ask a quick question and they can’t help you course-correct in real-time quite as easily. So you’ll want to be proactive and make sure you understand your role and the tasks you are working on. Whenever you discuss a new project, for instance, be sure to ask when deliverables are due and how your boss would like to receive them.
During your first week or two of starting a job while remote, make sure to go over what goals you should be looking to hit in your first 30, 60, and 90 days. Your boss may have sketched out the beginnings of such a plan for you or you might be able to put one together yourself based on your early conversations. Regardless, review the plan with your manager to ensure you’re on the same page.
- Learn How Your Team Communicates
While you, your manager, and your coworkers are all working remotely—perhaps for the first time—it’s especially important to find out how everyone prefers to communicate, so you know whether to monitor your email, Slack, or another channel your team relies on.
Having a sense of your new coworkers’ communication preferences will make it easier and more comfortable for everyone to get to know one another and foster positive and productive interactions. And you’ll be able to lean on people to learn the ropes without ruffling any feathers.
- Ask for More Information
If a coworker reaches out by email or chats with an assignment or task, see if you can schedule a phone call or video meeting to discuss the project. Ask them questions to better understand their role, what they need you to accomplish, and what their priorities are. This will help you understand how your work relates to larger projects and goals within the organization, allow you to fulfill their request as best you can, enable you to get up to speed more quickly, and ultimately make it easier for you to succeed at your job.
Send an email that says something like: “Thanks for sending over this task. Can we hop on a brief phone call/video chat and talk about it? I’d like to get more context for the assignment to better understand what’s needed and how I can get this done most effectively.”
- Remind People Who You Are
Starting a new job always involves introducing yourself to a lot of new people as they learn who you are and what you do. That process might take a little longer and require a bit more effort on your part when starting a job while remote, even if your manager or HR sent out some kind of introduction email.
Because you won’t be casually running into your colleagues in the office kitchen or in the elevator, it might be necessary to reintroduce yourself and remind your colleagues of your name and role when contacting them by email or participating in a conference call or video meeting.
In your first days and weeks, pay attention to how your manager, teammates, and other long-time employees talk to one another and use that as a guide. And whether you’re writing a note or speaking to someone, make sure the reason for your communication is clear. During a video or conference call, speak clearly in complete sentences and be specific about what you want to discuss or ask.
- Get to Know Your Colleagues and Find Work Buddies
Consider asking your manager to send out an announcement that you’ve joined the team along with a note that you would welcome phone calls or video meetings to get to know your colleagues better. Whether or not they do, you can certainly reach out to folks you know you’ll be working with to introduce yourself and set up a chat.
If you’re worried about finding a trusted colleague to ask questions or to bounce ideas off, consider thinking back to the people you met and talked with during your interview process and reaching out to them.
If you find a colleague you click with during a larger meeting, invite them to a one-on-one virtual coffee chat, Blevins says. “Just because you’re not face-to-face doesn’t mean you can’t reach out and create these relationships,” she says.
Starting a job while remote at a time when your manager and colleagues are also getting used to working from home—and you’re all dealing with a lot of other stressors during a global pandemic—might make it a bit more difficult to hit the ground running. And it might take longer before you feel comfortable socially in your new organization.
However, there are proactive steps you can take to make the transition a bit easier. Give yourself time to feel part of the team. Everyone needs a little bit of flexibility and a whole lot of patience.