Before COVID, I’d never had a job where I worked more than one day a week from home. If you had asked me in February 2020 how I felt about working remotely, my response would have been “I would love to be 100% permanently remote forever!” 12 months (and counting) and one new job later? I can’t wait to have an office.
I joined Taoti in August 2020, so I had been working remotely for five months in my previous job and have only known remote work as a Taotian so far. Starting a new job entirely remote was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had professionally. And if I could do it over again, I’d have approached it differently to make sure I got the most out of it. I don’t have a time machine, but due to the pandemic, remote work will continue for long enough to be worth sharing so others can benefit from some advice!
As an employee, these are the things I wish I’d started/done sooner to get where I’m at now:
- Give yourself an end-time for work. It’s so easy to let your workday spill into your evening if you work at home (and don’t have a dedicated office), especially during COVID when you don’t have many evening plans. Try to find something (go for a walk, 15 minutes of reading a book, etc.) to do at the same time each day that will essentially replace what your commute was. Once it’s done, now your home is home again and done being the office for the day.
- Accept that it’s going to suck at times but that it won’t last forever. Starting a new job is inherently stressful, regardless of a pandemic going around. I had put my job search on hold when COVID hit for that very reason, but then Taoti came along and it felt like the right fit, pandemic-stress and all. It was still a bit stressful (though Taoti made it manageable!), but I kept reminding myself that it was the right move in the long run and now that I’m over the “new kid” hump, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
- Have a dedicated spot (and stay at it!), even if it’s in the living room. My desk is literally five feet from my couch. I hate it, but it’s as far as I can make it. Even still, having a dedicated spot that’s ONLY for work makes it ten times better. My couch, dining table, bed, etc., are all solely for “home” things and my desk is solely for “work” things. Having that separation is key.
- Ask people all your questions all the time and ask to sit in on every meeting you possibly can. I’m a figure-it-out-yourself-er, but despite that and even with our training system, I found myself having so many questions but being hesitant to ask. I realized it was a lot of things that would come up organically in conversations at the office, but because online, you’re only talking to people directly when you have something to discuss, things slip through the cracks. You have to not worry about annoying people (they were new, too, once!) and remind yourself that it’s always better to ask now than to fix later.
As a new employee, these are what helped me most (even the times I didn’t want to do them).
- Virtual gatherings. I hate “forced work fun.” I know that sounds bad, but it’s true. Pre-COVID, I wanted to show up, do my stuff, then go live my life once the work for the day is done. Post-COVID, however, the scheduled happy hours and remote gatherings have been invaluable to me, feeling like I’m part of the team and not just like one of many talking heads on the computer.
- Regular “shoot the sh*t” chats. One of the best things about being in an office is getting all the interaction, including non-work chat, throughout the day. Working with a group of people who I still have never met in real life feels very strange, but getting to chat with them one-on-one about not JUST work-related tasks makes me feel more like I know everyone and less like I’m one of the “new, post-COVID hires” vs. the “pre-COVID in-house” folks. (Thanks, Slack group chats and video chat function!)
- Taoti U. One thing we’ve had for a while and recently re-vamped into an internal microsite is our Taoti University onboarding process. We have pages for anything and everything you might need to know how to do —having it has been invaluable and helps cut down on having to feel like you’re bugging too many people with too many questions. Every company should have this!
I hope this has been helpful for anyone who just started a new job during these extra stressful times. If you haven’t but have been thinking about it, now it’s time for my shameless plug about the fact that we’re growing rapidly and currently hiring (and are going to have a brand-new office space to use once COVID is done), so check them out and come join us!