Onboarding in a Pandemic.

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Picture this: you’ve worked hard to land your new dream job and are preparing for your first day. You shower, pick out your first-day outfit, listen to a motivating podcast while getting ready; you are looking the part and feeling good. It’s time to head to the office and say hello to your new colleagues for the first time. A shockwave of nervous, but exciting energy showers over you as you step out of your bedroom to leave for the day. But this is where things get a bit strange, different than every other first-day experience in your career so far. The office is right outside of your bedroom door; a mere 10 steps and you are at work.

This is the unusual feeling I had the day I started my new role here at Elevated. Although I have always dreamed of having a job flexible enough to allow me to balance work and life, it has been a journey of learning and adapting to a fully digital world away from a company office.

I was curious how I would be able to fully connect to my team without meeting them in person but was pleased to find out just how effective online platforms can be. Meeting via Zoom with my new manager felt comfortable and we had a lovely conversation about life, our backgrounds and what work would look like for me in the first 30 days. I appreciated the setting of expectations from the get-go and knowing what I could get started working on. Within the first few days, each colleague had reached out to set up a Zoom coffee chat. Although I had already met most of the team during the interview process (we’re small and mighty), it was a great way for me to have a light and friendly conversation with everyone, break the ice and start our working relationships.

Other online platforms we use to stay connected are Slack and 15Five. Both of which have been awesome tools to maintain work discussions, to set weekly goals and check-ins, and give recognition to teammates. I appreciated the dedication to promoting a positive company culture through regular interaction via these online platforms, and I felt at home and part of the Elevated family right away. I can’t stress how important this was for me, especially since I was worried about how I would connect effectively with people while working from home.

Something I noticed right away with being able to work in the quiet privacy of my home is that my productivity skyrocketed. I am the first to admit that when I’m in an office environment, my sensitive ears get overloaded and distracted easily; especially in the new age, open-concept type office settings, I find it difficult to focus and get work done. Although it’s nice to see people on a daily basis, it’s also a struggle when interrupted regularly by a conversation nearby or someone stopping by your desk to say hello. The beauty of working at home (especially as a single gal) is that my only distraction is my cat or the lawn maintenance people. I am mostly able to hunker down and focus solely on work, which is beneficial both for myself and the company. I can do so much more, especially without having to spend an hour commuting and dealing with the stress that comes with driving to an office in rush hour traffic.

Of course, with positive aspects come disadvantages or struggles. I’d like to acknowledge that Zoom fatigue is a real thing! My first couple of weeks were jam-packed with Zoom meetings, and I was not prepared to deal with what that would feel like. Partaking in excessive amounts of close-up eye contact with people and having to look at myself all day was intense. It’s almost like having a party in your personal bubble all day; it’s tiring! In-person meetings allow for people to engage in different ways, look around the room, move around and have adequate space between them. Online video meetings require more intense attention, eye contact and more cognizant considerations of facial expressions and mannerisms. Trust me, if you’re tired on a zoom meeting, people will be able to tell, and turning off your camera isn’t always an option. Also, because Zoom meetings do not require the booking of meeting spaces or travelling from one room to another, the day can quickly become back-to-back video calls with no time to even take a bathroom break.

Something else that stood out as difficult to navigate at times was knowing who to go for with questions or clarification. In a physical office environment, it’s easier to just walk over to someone’s desk, ask a question, and get back to work; that takes 5 minutes tops. At home, more time might be spent trying to figure something out or waiting on a response in chat. Although I mentioned productivity increased, this was a factor in some things taking me longer to complete than they should have.

All in all, although onboarding in a fully digital environment has its challenges, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh said challenges. I would much rather have the flexibility to sleep a little later if I want to, get an early morning walk in and still start work at a reasonable time without the stress of having to rush to get ready, commute, find parking, etc. I’ve also saved money by having the ability to make my lunch every day, also improving my capacity to make healthy meals. On a break, I am able to throw in a load of laundry, water my plants, or stretch. Being able to do these little things creates a better balance between work and life, which to me, is worth its weight in gold.

As my first fully remote onboarding experience, I would say it was a success!