Starting a New Job During the Pandemic

I found myself accepting a job offer from Bospar just as the pandemic forced offices to close and businesses to reevaluate their priorities. While incredibly grateful for the opportunity, I couldn’t help but feel anxious about the unfamiliar process and unforeseen set of challenges that starting a job in the middle of a global pandemic would bring. However, three months in, I’ve found that with the right mindset and a willingness to adapt, you can successfully grow in a new position, regardless of external circumstances and uncertainty. Based on my personal experience, I’ve outlined some tips that will help you successfully navigate this unusual process.

Separate your workspace and your relaxing space

Most of us are not used to working from home. It can be a jolting experience as we are presented with more distractions. On the other hand, without others around, I found myself working later into the night than I usually would. My recommendation is to have a space in your home dedicated solely to working, whether it’s an office, an extra room or even just a desk. This trains your brain to know that when you’re sitting in your workspace, it’s time to focus on work and be productive. It also trains your brain to know that when you get up or move from your workspace, you’re taking a mental break.

Get to know your coworkers, even if it’s over Zoom

In this strange time of quarantine when we are all cut off from our usual interactions, it’s imperative to make connections any way we can. Very Well Mind reports that according to the American Psychological Association, “social isolation can lead to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health, lower immunity, depressive symptoms, and impaired executive function. When executive function skills are impaired, you may find it more difficult to focus, manage your emotions, remember information, and follow directions.” Making personal connections with your coworkers can help minimize the feeling of isolation and provide a sense of community, resulting in better mental health and better work performance.

Ask people how they like to communicate

As companies digitally transform, you may find your company overcompensating for the lack of face-to-face contact by implementing too many methods to communicate. From Slack and Zoom to Gchat and email and with every coworker preferring a different method, it can be difficult to reach anyone. Don’t be afraid to ask your team members how they prefer to be communicated with. The last thing you want is to spend all of your time tracking down the appropriate person every time you have a question or need an answer, keeping you from getting other work done.

It’s ok to ask for HELP

Anytime you start at a new company, it’s tempting to not want to “bother” anyone by asking for help. Don’t be afraid to ping your coworker, on whatever medium they prefer, and ask your question. It takes much less time for them to answer than for you to spend an hour trying to figure it out yourself. Remember, if deliverables don’t get out on time, it’s the fault of the entire team.

Be patient

Not only is this an unusual, frustrating and downright difficult experience for you, but it’s an adjustment for everyone at the company. Coworkers with kids are now trying to juggle being a professional, a parent and a teacher, all in one. Others may have friends or family affected by the coronavirus or the quarantine. It’s important to remember that everyone is going through an adjustment period. So, if your coworker seems snippy or you don’t have enough work or perhaps you have too much work thrown at you, don’t take it personally. Nine times out of 10, it has nothing to do with you.

 2020 will be especially memorable for me — I started a new job during a time of unprecedented global uncertainty. I hope these keys to my success prove useful should you find yourself in the same predicament. It can be challenging, but it is worth it!

More on the New Normal: Remote Work Is Going Mainstream

Bospar has been a virtual agency since its inception. At more than five years old, our firm has mastered the remote office thing, and, given our steady growth as an award-winning agency, we are doing more than okay. In fact, we’re so strong in our convictions around open-plan offices that we decided to test our assumptions in 2018, commissioning a piece of research that we called the “Work It” study.

Partnering with Propeller Insights, we surveyed over 1,000 people and learned that 76% “hate” open offices, and 43% say there is “no privacy.” In addition, 34% said they can overhear too many personal conversations, and 29% said they can’t concentrate. In addition, 23% have concerns around leakage of sensitive information, and 21% indicated that they’re unable to do their best thinking. We also learned that open-plan offices can make employers seem cheap and create suspicion and a lack of trust. Nearly a third (30%) think open offices are a ploy to save money, and 15% think they’re a way to watch over workers. In terms of encouraging collaboration, only 23% of respondents viewed open offices as a positive.

COVID-19 and the Big Shift

As we all know, COVID-19 has caused a rapid shift to remote working. The benefit for Bospar, as well as our clients, was that we provide uninterrupted service while observing the need for social distancing.

And to understand more about how others were faring and to back up some of our earlier assertions, we commissioned further research on the topic of offices and teleworking, as well as the impact of the coronavirus. Our data showed that 63% of Americans were worried about the virus, and 55% were concerned that they will contract the virus this year. Related to the workplace, some 51% thought that working in an open office made them fearful about contracting COVID-19. In the opinion of 53% of respondents, open office layouts will likely spread coronavirus, and 41% think their own open-plan offices will spread the virus.

The New Normal

Given the coronavirus pandemic, virtual work has been implemented widely. However, remote work has been growing for a while, and FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics report a 159% increase in remote work between 2005 and 2017. Our own data shows remote working will become increasingly more accepted, as 51% of people think the flu and coronavirus will accelerate the shift to virtual office environments.

Working From Home: Successful and Getting Better

From a management perspective, virtual officing can be very beneficial. In addition to helping employees avoid the stress associated with commuting, companies can scale back investments in expensive office space, while achieving a smaller environmental footprint and mitigating the adverse impact from outside forces like traffic jams. The Brookings Institute also suggests that in addition to protection from the coronavirus, remote work means gaining access to a broader and deeper talent pool because hiring is no longer bound by geography. Additionally, local “third places” like coffee shops benefit from the patronage of remote workers.

While there is a temptation to be “always on” as a remote worker, employees can in fact achieve work-life balance. Health and wellness play a key part in keeping virtual employees engaged without burning out. Maintaining a daily routine and regular office hours enable a more professional feeling, as do tech-enabled home workstations.

Now that we’re well into the pandemic, remote work truly has become the new normal. After having made the move to protect employees through social distancing, companies are thriving, and many have learned that corporate offices are unimportant. What’s more, it doesn’t look like things will swing back the other direction when the pandemic passes – a new Morning Consult poll shows that 73% of people are positive about working remotely and that “three- quarters of Americans who are able to work remotely would like to do so at least once a week when the pandemic ends.” The remote work genie is out of the bottle, and even if they wanted to, corporations won’t be getting it back in there.

How to Maintain Work-Life Balance During These Difficult Times

Working from home may have seemed like the dream situation for many people; however, that was probably before they were forced into it with no end in sight. Now, it seems that the lines between work and leisure are starting to blur. Thanks to social distancing, creating a healthy work-life balance has become even more challenging and has many of us feeling like it’s harder to actually take a break on the weekends.

But reclaiming some balance to your days and weeks isn’t just good for your mental health—it’s good for your productivity, too.

Here are four tips that are sure to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance, even when it feels like you haven’t left your house (and office) in months.

Play Dress Up

Dress for work. No, I don’t mean you should throw on 10 pounds of makeup, a pink boa and your fanciest outfit. But it’s important to use the wardrobe you have to differentiate between “work days” and “off days.” Don’t just throw on a new pair of pajamas when you roll out of bed. Instead, create a manageable morning routine that fits your new normal. Dulling down the hair gel and face makeup is a benefit of virtual work meetings, but don’t abandon all your old habits. Freshening up in the morning can set the tone for the rest of your day!

Move Your Body

Don’t get stuck in the work-from-home hamster wheel of waking up and logging on to work or checking emails right away. I’m aware that this is easier said than done. It’s key to hold yourself accountable to at least 30 minutes of movement each day. This can be anything from walking or running to yoga, Pilates and/or weight-lifting. Getting in some movement in the mornings before work can give you that extra jolt of energy that coffee just isn’t providing.

 Prioritize What Matters

In order to create work-life balance, you need to figure out what’s most important to you—and then prioritize those things. Utilize quarantine as a time to write down your goals, both short-term and long-term. Then figure out the best plan of action for achieving these goals, but be realistic with your approach. When you have time to focus on the things that matter most to you, you’ll be more motivated and productive and happier overall. 

 Block Out the Noise

“There’s an app for that” has never been truer. We’re constantly connected to the world around us through social media, and sometimes it can seem overwhelming. Even though social distancing can have you feeling disconnected, it’s crucial to put your phone down every so often. Turn off notifications for unimportant apps that only distract you during the day. You can also try using the “do not disturb” feature on your phone to your advantage. This is something I have on all the time. My phone is on “bedtime” at night and almost always on silent mode, and notifications for all my apps are turned off. This helps me avoid constantly looking at my phone every two seconds. Pro tip: If you’re serious about unplugging, delete apps like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Pinterest during the workweek to curb the urge to mindlessly scroll. 

The steps to achieving work-life balance will look different for everyone. However, the end goal  tends to look the same—to create an atmosphere that leaves you feeling productive but also refreshed, giving  structure to your day!