As CHR continues to grow and recruit during this difficult time, one of it’s newest employees Maria shares her insight into starting a new job virtually!

Working from home wasn’t at all how I had imagined starting my new job at CHR, but since my job move coincided with the coronavirus pandemic and the UK entering lockdown, I really had no alternative. On the one hand, I was super excited for my new job but, on the other, extremely nervous about having to integrate myself in a new company remotely. Thankfully, CHR and all its (amazing) members made my onboarding a lot easier and I dare say enjoyable!

Being a stationary lover, I knew things were off to a great start when I received my laptop in a box filled with the complete CHR goodie pack as well as a warm welcome note, courtesy of the extremely efficient operations team.

On my first day, despite knowing I’d be working from the “comfort” of my kitchen, I couldn’t help but debate what to wear, opting for a safe, semi-casual look (since then, I have benchmarked my clothing against my colleagues’ and usually go for just casual). When I turned on my laptop and logged into my account, I was happy to find my calendar pre-populated with several meetings, filling nicely my first few days. At that point, I realised that Microsoft Teams will become my best (but hopefully not my only) friend. CHR was already using the platform prior to COVID-19, so everything was already set up and running very smoothly. Similarly to what would have happened under normal circumstances, the first thing on my schedule was my HR induction, followed by meetings with my line and project managers as well as a surprise lunch with “my buddy” – a colleague of mine who was to become my go-to person in my first few months in the company. Since I joined on a Monday, I also had the opportunity to attend the company-wide weekly meeting, which gave me a good overview of recent activities and a feeling of “belonging”. Also, during this meeting, I was formally announced as a new starter which resulted in me receiving welcoming messages from several colleagues over the next few days.

From there onwards, establishing a routine and getting into the job happened quite naturally. From day one, I was already on two different project teams, so most of my time was dedicated to getting up to speed with the therapeutic areas of my projects and preparing my onboarding exercises. This involved frequent communication with my project managers and other team members who were a helpful source of tips, insights and advice. Always at my disposal and making time to answer my questions, they made me feel part of the team right from the start. In parallel, my project work was nicely complemented by several online training sessions that I could go through at my own pace, covering from general to more specific aspects of the job. Additionally, any technical difficulty I had (e.g., with accessing files etc.) was solved within a matter of seconds. When I needed a break, there was always something funny being posted on the Microsoft Teams social chats, colleagues keen on virtual lunching or the occasional virtual mindfulness session.

Obviously, starting a new job from home is not ideal on many levels. For instance, it was a scary possibility that my colleagues wouldn’t really get to know me or my personality, therefore building a working and personal relationship could be challenging. I was also worried that by not being in the office, I would have less opportunities to absorb on-the-job learning. I’ve realised now that with the appropriate support and very willing and generous people around you, these are easily circumventable problems. To counterbalance any fears, working from home has unquestionable perks: no commuting, freshly cooked lunch, power naps (if necessary) and the ability to do things at a rhythm that works for you. Also, working virtually allows you to be as introverted or extroverted as you wish – if you don’t feel like having that virtual lunch one day, it’s OK.

For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation and must start a job remotely, I advise you to reach out to your colleagues, be open about how you feel and not be scared to turn on your webcam! You must remember that you are lucky to be able to work (from home) in the first place. This is a strange time for everyone, so you are not alone in trying to settle into a new situation. For future new starters at CHR, we’ve now created a “remote new starter” mutual support group which is growing by the week.

I am now almost three weeks into my new job and feel completely CHR-ed! And what’s great about joining CHR remotely is that I remain excited to meet everyone in person when the time comes – I’m sure that it can only get better from here.