Onboarding During COVID-19


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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unique challenges to companies, employees, and job seekers, causing last-minute workplace changes in every industry and field.

Among those special situations are individuals starting new jobs. I’m one of them. It’s rare, and it was sudden.

Four weeks ago, I signed an offer letter with the nonprofit organization of my dreams and gave two-weeks’ notice to my then-employer. The next day, my new company instructed its employees to work from home if they are able due to COVID-19, then, a few days later, its building closed.

Remote work is nothing new to me. Half of the positions I’ve held in my career were nearly 100 percent remote with onboarding taking place in person. Next month, I graduate with my master’s degree that I completed entirely online, having never met my instructors or classmates in person. Even with these experiences, I was still scared of my current situation.

Plus, I’m an ENFJ. I really value building relationships with my team. Virtual onboarding means I can’t shake my new boss’ hand, grab coffee or lunch with coworkers in person, or decorate my new office with pictures of loved ones.

Career coaches and human resources professionals will tell you that when working from home, employees should communicate more than you would at the office. Well, when onboarding from home, new hires should do more of everything.

Communicate more.
Explain more.
Plan more.
Have more patience.
Show more empathy.

Fast forward to today — a week and a half on the job. Confident, comfortable, and happy best describe my day-to-day feelings. Not the expected emotions: confused, anxious, and lost. How did this happen? Here’s what I did, and I hope this helps you, too.

Be early.

“Get Up. Suit up.” My aunt says it best. Show up both physically and emotionally. Every. Day. Logging into Zoom meetings early shows your new boss and coworkers that you’re punctual and tech savvy — you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with your company’s video conferencing platform(s).

Connect with others. Schedule 1×1 meetings with as many members of your team and department as you can. Then, follow up with a connection request on LinkedIn. Maintaining a baseline relationship with those you will frequently (or infrequently) work with will create a smoother transition once workers return to the office. Kindness is more likely to be reciprocated, too.

Be intentional.

Structure your day. I’m one of those people whose anxiety flares up with extra free time. Outlining a clear schedule from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed allows you to follow step-by-step instructions throughout your day: wake up, workout, walk the dogs, shower, eat breakfast, power on your computer, etc. It’s efficient, too, helping you conserve mental energy that you might have used between tasks to decide what to do next.

Track your progress. Develop a 30/60-day plan that includes status updates for HR paperwork, skills training, organizational reading, and your first projects to stay organized. This could take the shape of a table in Microsoft Word, Google sheet, or other project management platforms like Airtable. Don’t be afraid to share your screen and show this off during 1x1s with your manager. Show, don’t tell.

Be patient with yourself and others.

Smile. No, this is not a gendered suggestion because you’re a woman and therefore responsible for your team’s emotional labor. You should smile during video conferencing calls because it chemically makes you and others around you happier. We all deserve more positivity during these trying times.

Be kind. Like the saying “the only constant is change,” the only predictable element of COVID-19 is its unpredictability. Assume positive intentions of those you interact with. For yourself, strive for progress, not perfection. Remember: We are in the middle of a crisis. It’s okay to slow down.

​For those starting new opportunities and work-from-home journeys, I wish you all the best. I hope these tips help ground you. You’re not alone. You got this!

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