Candidate Tips

Starting a new job in lockdown

Ruth-Beth Jackson

Executive Consultant | Finance

Jul 22, 2022

If lockdown has taught us one thing, it has been to adapt. We have had to familiarise ourselves with a new way of life where employment is concerned.

I “sat down” (in the new 2020 way – many metres apart) with a few of my key clients who have experienced the ins and outs of starting, and keeping a new job during the lockdown.

Job Title: Head of Operations

What was it like starting a job in lockdown and a pandemic?

Having to transition from pre COVID-19 where you are in the office 100% of the time and the luxury of direct contact with partners and staff etc. to more or less nothing leaves you feeling isolated.

I was nervous but also excited to be one of the lucky ones to start a role during a pandemic. Having not had the office environment for so long, going back into an environment where 80% of the office was still in lockdown further cemented the new process I was involved in.

What was your induction like?

My induction was mixed as I started the last week in July; most of the team was off so I got to go in for the entire induction. I had the choice of staying at home but I made the conscious decision to go in to do it.

It was myself and two or three other people in the office who had to uphold social distancing, no handshaking or anything like that, so it seemed quite cold. Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to work remotely but wanted to be in to interact with the team on the different days they were in and build a bond that way.

How have you found getting to know your team?

I had to take it slow, take a step back, draw on my empathy skills and get to know what worked. The task was getting a team that was working remotely for the last 6 months back into an office environment and setting the standards right from the outset.

What have you found has been the best way to stay in contact with your team?

To allow everyone to feel most comfortable, there is a rota in place to accommodate those who come into the office and those who cannot. We set up weekly meetings with the entire team, but it is not always easy.

Sometimes, people do not want to show their faces or be on camera. Nevertheless, beyond the unfamiliarity of virtual team meetings, I find Zoom meetings, Mobile conversations, and face-to-face where possible but not too often is best – you do not want to cross the line of familiarity or annoyance.

What about the social side?

Before I started this role, I was quite lucky as I kept in touch with many of my past colleagues; we met online, where I would learn new current housing knowledge from them. When I started this role, my immediate team and I would play games on the organisation, e.g. values. I wanted everyone to be involved, as we couldn’t really do much more. That helped with the social side of things.

Do you feel like you missed out on some aspects of starting a new job that you would have gotten had you been in the office?

Not really, just because I was constantly learning: CIH, Inside Housing, Housing Federation, kept me informed of things, also speaking with other housing professional friends. This then allowed me to help others in the organisation when I started.

Are you phasing back into the office yet?

We are! We have it mixed where there are some days working from home and some back in the office; it is a small team and small office so we still have a rota system in place. We value interaction with the staff so hope to keep the office open as long as allowed.

Neighbourhood Operations Manager

What was it like starting a job in lockdown and during a pandemic?

It felt weird not meeting anyone in person and having a laptop delivered to the door, but this was our new normal.

What was your induction like?

I had a planned induction, some training was group-wide and some were specifically for me, but it was all planned. Of course, this was all via Zoom or Teams.

How have you found getting to know your team?

It felt strange at first just getting to know the team through Microsoft Teams, but now I feel like I know them. It really is all about having more communication and planning the time as opposed to being in the office and having the luxury of walking up to your teams.

What have you found has been the best way to stay in contact with your team?

I found Microsoft teams to be the easiest way but I have started meeting up with a few of my team for coffee. Once they are comfortable, of course.

Do you feel like you missed some aspect of starting a new job that you would have gotten had you been in the office?

It would be the social things of building a relationship with colleagues like going for a coffee or lunch together or going to the printer and meeting someone there, it is the little things, really.

What about the social side of work with your team?

Honestly, I didn’t really do the social side of things, wouldn’t really go out for drinks or anything of the sort. However, I did enjoy the Zoom games and small catch-ups, they were enough for me.

Are you phasing back into the office yet?

We are only in the office when it comes to work needs. The Head of Department decides but this has to be agreed on a person-by-person basis. E.g. If you have documents to print, a real need to be in the office.

Our new working life reality

2020 has developed a new normal for lots of areas of our lives, the working world included. The recruitment process has undoubtedly changed from physically meeting hiring managers, to settling in virtually to a new job.

The housing industry, in general, were advocates for remote working pre-Covid so the logistics of having laptops, Teams, Zoom, etc were perhaps simpler to work with and adapt to than some other areas, but what these technological advances can’t replace is the human interaction and workplace social circle we all develop and crave.

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Executive Consultant | Finance

Ruth-Beth Jackson

Ruth-Beth is pretty much what you find in the dictionary under the word ‘efficient’. You can’t throw a problem at her that she can’t solve, in half the time it would have taken you to do it, and she’ll remain upbeat throughout. Ruth-Beth will reliably be there with motivating pep-talks, for candidates, clients, and teammates alike, and I really meant what I said about safe hands. You’re never going to feel lost or out-of-your-depth with Ruth-Beth there to steer you right.

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