Overcoming new job challenges in lockdown
18 June 2020: Jo Butterworth, who started at EY just as the UK transitioned to mass remote working, shares her experience of joining a new team during this challenging time, juggling childcare responsibilities, and what she learned from it.
When you're joining a new business, finding your feet and getting to know new faces is an exciting time, albeit sometimes a little daunting. However, like many people at the moment, the onboarding process for my new role as Market Segment Manager – North and Scotland for EY was undertaken in an environment of remote working.
Virtual coffee meetings replaced water cooler chats. My children had no school or nursery to go to, creating unexpected challenges. But I have learned from the experience and have some advice for others facing these unusual settling-in periods.
EY's induction has included online learning sessions and webcasts for some time, so a lot of the materials were in place for onboarding from home. It meant I was able to get to grips with new systems, processes, reporting, dashboards, and introduce myself to colleagues, all on video calls. There have inevitably been occasions when my toddler bursts into the room, playing with his diggers. On top of that, I've also had to juggle homeschooling my 12-year-old daughter.
Surprisingly, I found that video calls, while sometimes tiring, have been brilliant at building new relationships. They can, in many ways, help you find common ground much quicker than in a formal meeting environment. I'd recommend other new joiners embrace them as a way to establish a connection with new colleagues. It's been great to see other people's pets or children making an appearance from time-to-time. You get a feel for how other people are juggling their responsibilities.
Team trust and openness
Having a culture where people feel able to be open and honest about their lockdown experience has also helped ease me into the new team. When you start any role, you want to make a good impression and get things right, while at the same time, questions can keep cropping up regarding inductions, training, admin processes and managing tasks.
When you're physically near colleagues in the office, it's easy to turn to them or have a quick chat over a cup of coffee. With everyone working from home, you can quickly forget these everyday behaviours, and end up trying to find a solution to every challenge or question on your own – especially when you're new and building relationships.
Regular calls, check-ins and weekly socials have made an enormous difference to the team and me, helping to ensure we continue to support each other actively. These frequent touchpoints are so valuable as a new joiner. I would recommend that others in this situation think about how to implement these as you get settled in.
Ask for support
I always thought I was quite adaptable and flexible because I've had some challenging times over the past five years. I've lost several close members of my family, including my parents and best friend, in the space of two and a half years. At separate times, my husband and I were made redundant; he launched his own business and then we had a baby. All those life changes gave me real resilience.
But what I've realised is that I'm even stronger than I thought. Supportive colleagues and workplace structures can have a significant impact on coping through uncertainty and upheaval. While it can be daunting when you're new to a company, you must accept help from colleagues, make use of any workplace policies where possible, and let those around you know if you need support during this time.
Flexible working culture
If you'd asked me at the start of lockdown, as I was starting a new job and as schools were closed, how long we could juggle all this as a family, I'd have said I could do it for a couple of weeks. But EY has a flexible working culture, which has helped me balance my personal and professional life. They've also doubled the period of special leave for those with caring responsibilities in emergencies. While I've not had to use this yet, knowing that it's there for when I might need it is a significant weight off my shoulders.
Being able to flex my day to manage caring responsibilities has been vital; it's allowed me to start getting up to speed while also making sure I can be there when my children need me. I'd encourage others to have the conversation, no matter how new you are to the role, to see if there's a working arrangement that can better support your day-to-day home and work responsibilities.
As a new joiner, it's also been encouraging to see others speaking up if they can't make a call or meeting, and to know that it's ok if we aren't able to do everything we usually would in the current circumstances. There are certainly learnings from this experience, especially having the choice to work flexibly in a way that suits you and your team. Sometimes we do things a certain way because that's the way we've always done it. This time has shown that we can adapt and make positive changes.