Starting a new job in COVID-19 times

25 June 2020

Taylor Rickwood is our Project Support Officer. She started working for Golden Key on the same day our Prime Minister told the British people to work from home if they could. This is her account of what it's been like starting a new job in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting a new job is like the first day of a new school year. You’re excited, a little nervous and you really hope the person you get stuck sitting next to is nice (and doesn’t smell!). Now add a global pandemic into the equation, and we’ve got ourselves the first test of the ‘school year’.

I started my job with Golden Key the same day as lockdown began. That has meant I haven’t really had the opportunity to sit next to anyone, but this doesn’t mean I haven’t had a chance to learn how supportive, kind and willing to help everyone is. I first met the majority of my colleagues virtually, many of whom I still haven’t met in person (I can only assume they don’t smell).  Despite this, I have built relationships with most people, and in many cases I don’t feel as though I’ve only known them virtually for a few months.

Working from home has also meant missing out on the ‘unconscious’ learning that happens in an office setting – something I certainly took for granted before lockdown. No impromptu conversations, or asking one-off questions to help me navigate the ins-and-outs of the programme. I haven’t met most people in person so emails are making up the foundation of my working relationships - which means using the right amounts of professional, friendly, language without any of the usual social cues you pick up on from being in the same building as people.

Once the email has been expertly crafted I click send and wait patiently (or not so patiently) for a reply. I then book a time slot in each of our diaries and voilà, in 5-48 hours I’ve got myself a conversation with a colleague. 

Needless to say, not a lot of space for spontaneous co-working, in the traditional sense anyways.

But these aren’t traditional times, and the reality is we are all being tested right now. If lockdown were in fact a school test, it would be a pop quiz in one of those compulsory classes you’re forced to take in order to graduate. Lockdown is an experience that none of us opted into, but what this experience has made me realise that there are many ways to achieve shared goals.

After much trial and error - and I can’t stress that enough - remote working has allowed me to achieve a work/life rhythm that genuinely works for me. After all, whoever the genius was who thought everyone would magically be at their most productive between the hours of 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday-Friday, must not have had a paint-by-numbers of an adorable highland cow calling their name from the living room.

As with anything, my new found work/life rhythm has had its fair share of peaks and troughs. In some ways I have found that processing the impacts of Covid-19 outside of work to be more challenging. Much like when you meet your new classmates for the first time, it’s easy to fall into a trap of comparison via social media while under lockdown. When lockdown started, I was overwhelmed by everyone’s new found skills and artistic endeavours highlighted all over Instagram.

As obvious as it may sound, I had to actively remind myself that I am still working. I have the same amount of free time to learn to juggle or bake endless amounts of bread now, as I did before lockdown started (but you better believe I baked a mean banana bread or two during those first few weeks).

So, the big question remains – how have I done on the pop quiz that is lockdown? Unfortunately I can’t answer that as lockdown continues through June.

What I can tell you is that I’ve learned a lot about my personal, professional, and virtual boundaries; I have reinforced my belief that communication and self-compassion are key ingredients to any positive outcome; and most importantly, I have inadvertently learned a new skill - that skill is the subtle art of avoiding virtual quizzes! Three quizzes in one week can be soul crushing, when you know zero obscure facts about geography, animals and literature.