STARTING A JOB IN ANY ENVIRONMENT CAN BE DIFFICULT, LET ALONE A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
My story begins as a girl who gets her first ever full-time job slap bang in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Just three days after I turned nineteen, I started my first job, going into the office located in the urban space of Borough, just south of the market.
I completed my brisk 7-minute walk to the studio from London Bridge station, to be greeted by the team. I was given the grand tour of the building, found my designated computer and workspace, and really began to feel like an adult. Well that lasted 4 days!
On the evening of my fourth day in the office (Thursday) I got the exciting news that I could work from home tomorrow, as I would every Friday. I didn’t have to race around for the train into London. I felt comfortable, calm and relaxed to be working from home. That didn’t last long.
Keep calm and lockdown
England’s lockdown began and all offices and travelling into London had been put on hold. Here’s half of me thinking ‘This is gonna be sweet, think of all the money I’m saving on travel expenses. The extra half an hour in bed, oh my!’ The other half of me, sheer terror. ‘What? I’ve only been in the office for 4 days I have no idea what I’m doing!’
The first Monday of lockdown we had our first ever ‘9.15am morning catch-up’ meeting on Zoom – which has since become an almost religious event for Free Partners. Having not even met all the members of the team face to face before lockdown, I never thought I would be seeing my new colleagues faces for mostly through the means of my laptop screen. That Monday morning meeting involved a lot of muddled and confused expressions.
Learning from lockdown
We, as a team, soon learnt that we were capable of working incredibly well remotely. We very quickly became experts on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, setting up team group chats, and being super organised when it comes to scheduling meetings.
I had to learn pretty much everything I do from within the four walls of my home. I very quickly realised that in order for me to succeed at what my job entails I really had to put myself out there. To pick up the phone when I got stuck in a task, to ask for help if I couldn’t find the right resources and to try and build virtual relationships with both my teammates and clients.
I’ve had to learn to be very patient with myself. Understand that I will get things wrong, and some tasks may take me longer than if I was with my colleagues in the office. I had no one around me that I could ask a quick question to or get to proofread and check my work. I had been quite literally thrown into the deep end.
I’d never had an in-office job experience, and I guess even now, over 5 months down the line, I still haven’t. I don’t know anything different.
The London vibe
I had such large expectations of working in London. The lunches out, the shops right on my doorstep, the diversity around me. Being able to experience the culture and discover some of London’s hidden gems that I never even knew existed. I soon had to adapt this to the reality of being sat at home until God knows when.
I’ve missed out on my first summer in London. The pinnacle of drinks and lunches. All the social events and networking which have for now, been turned into webinars and Zoom calls. The only time of the year where the streets of London glow with warmth. However, I’m certainly not going to complain about missing the intense heat on the tube.
I’m a very social and rather chatty, if I do say so myself. I wanted a job where I would be surrounded by people on a day to day basis, so for life to go from one extreme to the other was very hard for me to adapt to. To get past the barrier of my laptop screen in order to get to know my colleagues was difficult.
However, everyone was working from the same boat. Being in their natural environment almost and a lot of what was going on around us sparked easy conversations. From kids or pets interrupting the Teams meeting, to the doorbell ringing mid call. We all got to see a different side to the people we usually surround ourselves with at work. Just the other day my colleague spotted my chipped cat mug, asking if the missing ear meant it was some sort of ‘gang/street cat’.
Work vs home life
When we are quite literally merging our work and home environment together it’s key to maintain boundaries in order to keep these as separate as much as possible.
I continue to treat it like I would a regular job. Have a routine. Get ready in the morning, have your 10am coffee, schedule a lunch break etc. Allowing it to feel like a regular job helps me keep the motivation going. If there are other people in the house, I make sure they understand that I’m at work and try not to disturb me. I think everyone working from home should try and clock off at your set time, don’t let yourself spiral into the routine of working later and later into the evening.
As we begin to press on from the lockdown months, there will be things we have learnt about ourselves and our jobs which we never knew. I for one have learnt that Free Partners are able to function as a remote working team and I’m able to manage my time well on a day to day basis and keep calm when put under pressure for time critical tasks.
Trying to stay positive throughout lockdown has been hard to maintain but now there are so many things we can take away from this experience. I’ve learnt so much about my capabilities and now I can’t wait to head back to the office and to be with my team.