When I got offered the job at ITV in February, I was thrilled. After nearly 5 years of working for another business it was almost hard to believe I was really going somewhere else. I was ready for my next adventure. My mind was racing with excited thoughts on my new office, new commute, and new colleagues. I’d even taken the time to Google the nearest Pret to the office and do the math on what time I’d need to be there ordering my coffee before work. Sad I know, but little did I know that half of those things would not materialise as the world was thrown into a crisis we could’ve never imagined.
The COVID reality
In the weeks that followed my new job offer, the spread of COVID-19 had escalated into pandemic status, engulfing most of the world and the UK into an international disarray. I hadn’t even finished my previous employment when we were all told to work from home as part of a stress test to see if the organisation could cope with vast amounts of employees working from home. Needless to say it did, and I haven’t seen my old desk since.
A week before I had started my new job, my new boss was keeping in regular contact with me, informing me that ITV is fully working from home. I was to collect my laptop along with any other technical equipment I needed and return home to work from there. It was that following Monday 23rd March, the day before I started, that the UK was officially in national lockdown. I still didn’t realise then how long those measures would be in place for.
The highway to Google Hangouts
My first two weeks at ITV were a bit of a whirlwind. Even from home my diary was jam packed with meetings and introductions. I felt instantly overwhelmed and drained from having to do all meetings through Google Hangouts, absorbing information in a new and intense way was something I had to adapt to quickly. After I finished each day I felt as though I had the commute from hell despite the only commute taking place was between the kitchen table and the fridge.
Over time the intensity of the virtual meetings subsided and it quickly became the new norm in what I expected from my new role. However the one aspect of starting a new job I was worried about was being able to connect with my team. People aren’t at work to make best friends, but having those connections and safety bubbles established can often help shape how our journey goes at an organisation.
The silver linings
Every now and then I still find it hard to establish those relationships as it's not possible to see everyone everyday, combined with the growing fatigue for virtual meetings. At times it can feel lonely. However I can say I’ve been incredibly lucky in joining a hugely creative and outgoing team who look out for each other and have made my experience the best it could have been given the situation. I even started at the same time as another girl in my team, which proved to be a huge positive to have someone in the same boat with whom I could share my thoughts and worries with. Most of all, having a boss who has all the qualities of a great leader: from excellent knowledge and experience, to empathy and a strong focus on the team's needs and interests. My boss has it all.
Imogen at ITV recalls her experience:
Being shown to your desk, having a tour of the office, perusing the stationary cupboard - all well known rituals of the first day in a new job. "Not this time!" COVID said. Never in a million years did I expect to be commuting a matter of footsteps to a makeshift office space on my kitchen table to be starting my dream job at ITV. And to still be doing so 6 months later! I have only seen the heads and shoulders of the majority of people I've worked with, which is a funny thought. But what brilliant heads and shoulders they are! I have been incredibly lucky to work in a very close and supportive team, who have always been there to pick me up when things are tough and keep me feeling motivated and inspired."Imogen Procter, Commercial Marketing Manager, ITV
Tips and more tips
For anyone starting work remotely, here are Imogen's top five tips:
Try and find people who have started work remotely recently in your organisation and set up a regular catch up call. I do that with two lovely ladies every few weeks and it really helps to lift my mood.
Try to have your video on as much as possible and encourage others to - it makes the meeting much more engaging and gives you the chance to build a rapport with someone.
Try and build a comfortable working space - I am still working at my kitchen table in a pretty cramped space, but I now have a laptop stand, monitor and an office chair, and it's helped so much! It feels like a more professional set up and is much more comfortable (my back and neck are certainly thanking me for it!).
Try and get involved in as much as possible - I'm lucky at ITV that there are lots of groups to get involved with and a wide variety of talks / workshops to sign up to. If your company is putting something on for the staff, for example a quiz, try and get involved.
Be kind to yourself. Starting a job from home in the middle of a global pandemic is tough. You're allowed to be overwhelmed. Take regular breaks - make a cuppa, go for a walk, watch a funny video. And always take your full lunch break if possible.
Rhys Mclachlan, our Director of Advanced Advertising started ITV little more than a month after Imogen and myself, and into a high profile role with a new programmatic platform ‘Planet V’ to launch and a team to manage. Here’s his top tips for starting a new job online:
Don't sweat the small stuff. Everybody has patchy wi-fi. Everybody has kids/pets/significant others walk in and out of camera view. Everybody forgets they're on mute. Everybody asks 'can you see my screen'.
Take a break. Get up and out of your location, take a walk, change up your scene. Refresh yourself
Invest in some comfy sliders and elasticated waist trousers
Not every call needs to be a video call. Just the two of you? That's a phone call. (see #2)
Figure out some decompression time. With no commute you've lost that invaluable time for mentally processing and putting away your work issues before you put the key in the door. (see #2)
Be aware of working-hour-creep. Deferring tasks till 'later this evening' is not going to serve you well in the long run
Invest in some proper decent ground coffee beans and an aeropress. Barista quality coffee every time.