It’s hard to think of any professions that haven’t been impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Whether you lost your job, transitioned to working from home or have had to follow new protocols as an essential worker, most people have seen significant changes in their work lives in the past few months. And while the unemployment rate shot up as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak, believe it or not, some companies are still hiring new employees.
Let’s say you’re one of them — congratulations! You’ve done the seemingly impossible and managed to get (or at least start) a new job during a pandemic. That’s no small feat. But it’s also probably something you’ve never done before — especially if your new role is as a manager. So how can you set yourself up for success?
According to Dr. Lori Whatley, a clinical psychologist and the author of Connected and Engaged, mindset is everything, and taking on a new job, and leading a team — even in these new, strange circumstances — is no exception. “This is a wonderful opportunity to be excited about for sure,” she tells Lifehacker. “When we are able to see unusual circumstances as opportunities, we can overcome anxiety. One helpful way to do this is to focus on what you wish to achieve in your new job and with your new team as their leader.”
Regardless of the new position, Whatley says that reframing unexpected obstacles is essential for success — focusing on the end result, rather than the problems in getting to said result. “Train your mind away from the things that frighten you because where you stare, you steer,” she explains.
To find out more about strategies for starting a new job remotely, we spoke with a variety of experts. Here’s what we learned.
Tips for starting a new job involving managing a team remotely
If you’re someone who excels at being in charge of a group of people and making sure everything runs efficiently, you may know how to be a manager in a physical office, but what about virtually? Here are a few ways to set yourself up for success.
Get in touch with your team individually
One thing that came up over and over from HR experts is that communication is incredibly important in remote work. Of course, it’s crucial in the office, too, but when you’re not able to see your team in person, some of your message might be lost or misunderstood. That’s why Willie Greer, who founded The Product Analyst and served as the head of the HR team when the company was starting off, recommends communicating with members of your team individually. “In leading a team on a remote basis, it is your duty to personally message them for concerns or tasks,” he tells Lifehacker. “It is also best to check in with them every now and then and ask them the challenges they experience, to be able to bring a more comfortable working condition.”
Ask your boss to partner you with a long-term manager on staff
Want to get the inside scoop on what it’s like being a manager at your new place of employment? Christopher Prasad, the marketing manager of JookSMS, suggests asking your new boss to put you in touch with someone who has performed in a role similar to yours before, and getting advice from them on your specific work situation. “[This] could stop a funnel of one person getting all and any questions newcomers need to ask,” he tells Lifehacker. “New staff need to feel comfortable asking questions honestly, and not be worried about contacting people. If you try to avoid the smaller things, it could snowball into much bigger issues. Remember, the team wants you to succeed.”
Set clear expectations
Part of communicating effectively with your team is setting clear expectations for them. “Explain to everyone your work style and what you expect from your team,” Neal TapariaI, founder of Imagine Easy Solutions and former executive at Chegg, tells Lifehacker. “For example, if it’s important to delineate home and work life, let your team know you don’t want them to answer emails past 6 p.m.”
Lead as if you were in the same room as your team
If you are starting a new job remotely, Ethan Taub, CEO of Loanry says that you have to remember that the main difference is you are not in the same room as your colleagues. “A team needs leadership that is clear and understanding — you have to be that voice for them,” he tells Lifehacker. “You have to motivate them to do the work like you would if you were in the same room. It is entirely possible, as long as you feel the motivation too.”
Tips for anyone starting a remote job
Whether you’re coming in as a high-level manager or a lower-level employee, there are certain steps anyone can take to start off on the right (virtual) foot with remote work. Here are a few.
Start on time
This seems like a no-brainer, but you absolutely need to show up on time for a remote position. Unlike in-person jobs, you can no longer use a “rough commute” as an excuse for being late. Just because you can work in pyjamas doesn’t mean you can be lax about punctuality.
Keep a running list of your questions
No matter how much training you receive when you start a new position, it’s usually a lot to retain and then apply as you’re learning a new job. Questions will inevitably come up, so when they do, write them down, Dr. D’vorah Graeser, founder and CEO of KISSPatent Innovation Consulting suggests. Keep a running list of your questions so you don’t forget about them. Also, ask your manager about their preferred venue for answering your questions. Maybe they want you to ask everything as it comes up, but perhaps they prefer that you bring your list to a prearranged meeting to knock out a bunch of them in one sitting.
Get to know your co-workers
One of the most stressful parts of starting a new in-person job is being thrown into an office ecosystem where everyone else already knows each other. It can be especially intimidating getting to know everyone — their working style, their sense of humour, and other basic information that can help you work together more efficiently — when you aren’t sharing an office. “I’m not saying you should become friends, but be aware of who they are, what their time zones are (this is super important!), what their responsibilities are and any other information that is important for you to do your job,” Graeser tells Lifehacker. “Basically, have a lot of questions! The more you ask, the easier it gets.”
When you start a new position remotely, it may seem like you’re off the hook when it comes to getting to know your colleagues, but it’s actually the opposite. Take the time to reach out to them — especially those you’ll be working with directly — and start the process of getting to know each other even though you’re not in the same room. Dana Case, the director of operations at MyCorporation.com, recommends meeting your new co-workers via Zoom, and continuing your face-to-face video chats on a regular basis to stay connected. This is especially important if you’re overseeing their workloads, she adds.