Starting a New Role Remotely
By Abigail Crane
On 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson addressed the nation advising the British public to stay at home. While the advice to “work from home where possible” was relaxed in July 2021, many employers have adapted to this new style of working, some with a view to maintain a flexible working pattern indefinitely.
An Evolution of Remote Working
Many employees have lauded home working initiatives as a positive step in the direction of an improved work-life balance. Prior to the first lockdown, only 6% of the UK’s adult population worked from home. At the height of lockdown, this rose to 60%, with an estimated 26% of British people planning to permanently work from home going forwards.
For prospective and new employees, the process of applying for and commencing a new position in the time of Covid-19 can present unique challenges. Many businesses have had to adapt to recruiting, interviewing and inducting new employees entirely remotely; an experience I became familiar with through my own application to work for Pinsent Masons Vario.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, only 22% of employers in the UK were conducting video interviews. As of January 2021, this figure has risen to 79%, with more than 50% of employers forecasting a continuation of video interviews.
In July 2021, after having submitted an application for the role of Marketing Executive for Pinsent Masons Vario, I was invited to a remote interview via Microsoft Teams. The experience of interviewing while sitting alone at my kitchen table had the potential to feel sterile.
The challenges of how I was to convey myself fully, and how to get a feel of the culture of the team and firm through a screen was something I anticipated palpably. However, this 50 minute video interview felt like a warm and exciting introduction. Certainly, it was a more challenging format than a face-to-face interview, but the very fact that I came away with such a strong feel for Pinsent Masons’ and Vario’s culture, without having met the team in person, gave me confidence that this was a business that I wanted to be a part of.
An Adapted Induction Process
Many businesses have had to review and adapt their procedures for inducting new starters in a world that has seen more than half of employees working from home in recent times. IT equipment is couriered out, essential training delivered via webinar and not meeting new colleagues face-to-face for up to year has become the norm.
I was lucky to have my first day at Pinsent Masons in the Birmingham office. Being guided around these impressive, but sparsely occupied spaces was indisputably strange. These offices, once a hive of activity, were conspicuously quiet. Colleagues at Pinsent Masons have painted an exciting picture of how our offices looked pre-Covid times, but generating a feeling of belonging in these circumstances will be a challenge for a new starter such as myself.
Life Without the Watercooler
A key part of a successful induction involves meeting your team: learning about their individual roles, how you’ll be working together and observing how they work in order to build an understand existing processes. These interactions are crucial for learning about the business’s values, and building rapport with the people with whom you will be spending a large proportion of your time with. Mental health charity, Mind, advocate that social relationships are critical to promoting wellbeing at work, so how does a firm like Pinsent Masons Vario facilitate connections for new employees?
Use of technology, such as Teams and Yammer, has been a vital part of keeping connected at work in a time when we have been apart. However, the technology alone is not enough. It is the people within the firm, those using these platforms, that speak and live the culture of the firm. Within my short time at Pinsent Masons Vario, the warm and genuine digital interactions I have experienced have gone a long way to helping me get to know the firm and what it stands for. In a time when an in-person handshake isn’t possible, exchanging smiles and informal introductions through video calling goes a long way to helping a new colleague develop rapport with a new team.
The Future of Flexible Working
Although the physical Birmingham office of Pinsent Masons presently appears quiet, I am looking forward the future: a balance of home working, and in-person interaction with colleagues in a lively office. In the meantime, Pinsent Masons Vario walk the walk when it comes to their people-centred values. Where the isolation of home working is acknowledged to take a toll on mental health, training webinars and learning platforms like Vario Advance offer training courses targeted to promote wellness at work and at home.
Starting a new job remotely poses challenges at all aspects of the onboarding process, but in my experience, Pinsent Masons have proved that a well-organised, personal approach is the key to a smooth induction, the demonstration of core values, and to making a new starter feel at home.