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How do you start a new job remotely?

Amy Kean, Director of Brand and Innovation at the change consultancy &us, shares just how she did it.

Amy Kean, &us

Director of Brand & Innovation

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My life is weird, and I like to keep it that way via the concept of Future Me. This means I proactively plunge myself into odd situations; sign up to courses, conference slots and even ridiculously difficult exercise classes to see if Future Me can handle them. Fortunately, Future Me generally handles them OK. I have a nice relationship with Future Me. I give her warning. We trust each other.

Present Me, however, well, who bloody knows. She’s a loose cannon! She flies by the seat of her pants. She has a chimp called Margaret (read The Chimp Paradox, you’ll understand). And because Future Me wasn’t mentally prepared for the relatively sudden self-isolation situation, Present Me was left to deal with my first week in a big new job as a remote worker.

(Some self-awareness: this is an extremely difficult time for many workers in the UK. I would never say the last couple of weeks have been difficult for me. Rather, they have been interesting enough to share some insights, no more.)

Working remotely in your first week is weird, with a fistful of new challenges each day. I thought I was innovative. I thought I was a techie. I was wrong. On my first virtual day at change and innovations consultancy &us, I Trello’d, Slacked, Hungout, Zoomed, FaceTimed, Google Doc’d, Mural’ed and Housepartied with little flair. My virtual behaviours prompted one colleague to ask if I’d ever used the internet. My new work pals can tell I sit at the bitter end of Millennial; I am in no way a social native. Instead, they are now aware that despite years of conference calling, I still shout at the screen and get easily distracted by beeps.

But that’s basic. From a leadership perspective, remote working has been a godsend. Why? Because it is impossible to enter all-guns-blazing. Charging into the office like a knight on a horse, announcing a revolution. Come on, admit it, we’re all prone. Working remotely should be a must for new starters because of the humility it necessitates. You have to listen, politely request people’s time, collaborate in a more thoughtful way. For the sake of your own sanity, fitting in, rather than making your mark, is the priority.

Working remotely should be a must for new starters because of the humility it necessitates.

Amy Kean

Starting out virtually

If your company has the right culture, working remotely is an excellent induction. I meet every single member of the team every single morning at 8.45am in our company stand-ups. I went to the virtual pub with everyone at 4pm on Friday, and we even hired a comedian to keep us entertained on Zoom. It was weird. The good kind.

I have thrown myself into life at &us in a way I probably wouldn’t have done if these were normal times. Because I need my colleagues a lot more than if these were normal times. This morning I was couriered ‘my box’: it’s something every new starter at &us gets: a little bundle of treats tailored to your personality. I was given a toy parrot, some stickers that say ‘fuck’, a voucher for an intravenous drip service, a book on paddle-boarding and a Pez Dispenser. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I cried a little bit, it’s so perfect.

Boundaries and breaking new ground

But when you work alone, you need to mind your mind. Imposter syndrome isn’t real. But if it was, I imagine I’d be feeling it right now. How will people know I’m productive? How will they know I’m right for the job? How can I create an air of gravitas down a phone line? My approval addiction needs a hit! In my first few days I was so keen to be productive, steam emerged from my keyboard. I became so frenzied I had to download the Headspace app and take regular 10-minute meditation breaks. I’m having to insist to Present Me that we stop work at 7pm, because our workspace is also our living space.

But I’ve been lucky. Being a newbie and remote would not have been pleasant within a bad, top-down, aggressive culture. A culture where people don’t listen, they wait to speak. The type of culture common in agencies. Within some agencies I’ve worked at, new starters don’t even get a hello on their first day in an office, let alone a bespoke box or virtual high five.

So, if anyone in an agency has started a new job in the last couple of weeks, you’re feeling a bit out of it and you want a chat, message me on Twitter, @keano81. Make sure you’re OK, for the sake of Present You and Future You. Because first weeks are important, and not every company has the culture to complement a weird one.

Guest Author

Amy Kean, &us

Director of Brand & Innovation,

About

Amy Kean is Director of Brand and Innovation at the change consultancy &us, working with local and international brands to overhaul their consumer products, strategies and culture. On the side, Amy is a university lecturer, columnist and Co-Founder of DICE, a self-regulatory framework that promotes diversity and inclusion at conferences and events across every industry. She’s also author of the number one bestselling feminist fairy tale The Little Girl Who Gave Zero F*cks and her second book, House of Weeds, is out in May 2020 with Fly on the Wall Press.