Gina Ince has started as an Onboarding Co-Ordinator at Applegate guiding new suppliers through our systems, and Catherine James is a Covid Hub support worker, connecting buyers and suppliers of PPE.
How did you end up joining Applegate during lockdown?
Gina: I was actually offered my position with Applegate just prior to lockdown, I was prepped and ready to begin work with my new colleagues from 25th March, but to date, still haven't met them - only virtually!
Catherine: Unlike Gina I was recruited after the pandemic began. It was a challenging time to be looking for work and I was delighted to see that Applegate was recruiting. Starting a role that would be actively supporting PPE supply at a crucial time was the icing on the cake.
You joined Applegate during lockdown, how did you find joining a new company without being able to see or meet any of your new co-workers?
Gina: Initially, very strange! Normally when you start a new role, the first couple of weeks are spent getting used to the office environment, meeting various teams and getting to know your new co-workers - so to be at home by myself was a very odd feeling. The whole process however was made as straight forward as possible for me with various documents and guides being sent to my house, and the team on hand via Microsoft Teams for all of my 'new starter' questions and inductions!
Catherine: Needless to say, joining a company remotely was an odd experience, but it went more smoothly than I expected. A combination of a few factors really helped: the IT worked straight away, the expectations of what I needed to do were clear, and regular communication through MS Teams helped create the sense of where I fit in to the bigger picture. But yes, it is really weird that I haven’t yet met my colleagues face to face.
How did it compare with starting previous jobs?
Gina: Honestly, I think the whole process really has been quite similar, except for the fact that I've had no face-to-face contact with anyone. The induction process was carried out remotely and team introductions were made in the same way. So, although I've not actually met anyone yet or physically been in the office, the process has been much the same with thanks to technology!
Catherine: For me it was very different! In one sense it felt as though I was thrown in at the deep end because I didn’t have the chance to meet colleagues in the usual way. But in another way, I felt that my new colleagues were making an extra effort to help me out because everyone was super aware of the strange situation.
How are you finding communicating with colleagues and customers from home instead of in the office?
Gina: Internally, we're communicating via Microsoft Teams which is extremely straight forward, with group chats set up for different areas of the business. The chats are often very busy given the need to keep everyone up to speed, however, it’s really reliable and has made asking questions much easier - it's also given me a good sense of the team environment and morale which is helpful too. Of course, many customers are also working from home and actually for many calls, this has been a talking point - sharing experiences of working from home or joking about the 'noisy children' in the next room!
Catherine: In actual fact, the business communications feel really similar, but what I’ve missed is the casual conversations in the kitchen, and being able to pop my head up to ask questions over the desk.
How have you had to adjust to working remotely?
Gina: Working remotely for me has meant having to find a suitable space within my home to work from - we do not have a 'work' space or outside area so lockdown began in my kitchen and has since moved to the nursery! We've had to adjust routines with the children (school work, play time etc) to fit in with working hours, as well as getting used to 'home' being my place of work.
Catherine: On some days, attempting to work with my kids marauding around in the background has made me question my sanity, but I don’t think I’m alone in that situation, and I think there’s a level of understanding between everyone who is trying to do the same!
What challenges have you met since working remotely, and how have you overcome them?
Gina: I have two children at home (a 5 year old and a 1 year old), so this has been the biggest challenge throughout lockdown. It's taken my 5 year old quite a few weeks to understand to try not to interrupt me while I'm working or on the phone. My husband (whilst furloughed) has done an amazing job at keeping the children entertained while I work. I'm not sure this is something we've overcome, more something we're learning to work with and adjust to.
Catherine: Because the lines between work and home life have blurred, it has sometimes been difficult to know when to stop work. I’ve needed to pause work intermittently to help my kids with school work, so my work days have necessarily been a bit stretched out. Applegate has been brilliant about accommodating this and I’ve found many colleagues are working similarly odd hours in order to get the work done and meet all our other commitments.
Name the hardest thing about joining a workplace remotely.
Gina: I’ve found in the past that just being within a new team environment, you pick up on a great deal just through the conversations that go on within the office environment, so I have missed this.
Catherine: I’ve missed the shortcuts to building a rapport with new colleagues – chatting at the kettle or printer has its benefits!
What has worked well? Have there been any changes to procedures or processes that you will continue to implement once lockdown is over?
Gina: Although I have faced challenges working from home, knowing that I can work remotely with no issues is great to know, should there ever be a need for me to do it again.
Catherine: The flexibility is a massive benefit. Just being able to switch my laptop on and work with zero commute is amazing! Although I miss the face to face contact with colleagues, I hope I’ll be able to keep an element of remote working in future.
Name the best thing about joining a workplace remotely.
Gina: Having the flexibility to manage my home life and looking after the children, alongside work.
Catherine: It feels great to be part of a positive story. I love seeing peoples’ reactions when they find out that I got a new job during lockdown, because it challenges the assumption that good job opportunities have disappeared indefinitely.
What advice would you give to other people in your situation?
Gina: Remote working is different for everyone and although it might be the perfect solution for some, it can also be difficult for a variety of reasons. Speak with you line manager or HR and voice any concerns. Applegate have been extremely accommodating to my own personal situation, adjusting my hours to suit once my husband returned to work after being furloughed to allow me to continue to look after the children.
Catherine: Don’t be afraid of looking for work, or starting a new job remotely. Like many people, 2020 has thrown all sorts of challenges my way, and this is one that has worked out better than I could ever have expected!
We hope that you found this insight into remotely starting a new job useful. If there’s anything you’d like to ask Gina or Catherine about their experience, do get in touch and they’ll let you know.