Finally, you’ve landed that new job you’ve had your eye on—and because of the current environment, you’ll be starting from home. During COVID-19, starting a new job is an incredible opportunity among the staggering unemployment numbers, but without question will not be in your typical environment. So how can employers and employees drive success in this “new normal”?
I assist a lot of our entry-level , new hires, and interns for the Financial Crimes Risk and Compliance team, and I recognized that during this time, setting these team members up for success can come with challenges. Several studies cite flexible work hours and remote work as effective, but the sudden transition to all remote, all the time can be jarring—particularly for individuals who are just beginning a new chapter with a new organization, or those who are in one of the first jobs of their career.
I count us exceptionally fortunate that we can carry out our financial crimes compliance work in an effective way while working remotely, but that does not come without challenges as we continue to adapt to extended remote work, especially for new team members. As organizations, including my own, continue hiring during this time, there are some parameters our managers have tried to implement to help guide the team to perform well and, equally important, feel connected. These include:
- Ensure there are regular check-ins: Where previously, team members would frequently swing by my office for a quick question, that’s not a possibility in today’s reality. It can be intimidating to pick up the phone and call “the boss”—but two-way communication is needed. Having regular check-ins, even if for just 15 minutes once a week, can help answer some of the “little questions” we’d normally discuss in person, ensure “to do” lists are accurately reflecting what needs to be done, and also develop that personal connection with new team members and maintain it with existing team members.
- Encourage team members to take initiative: One of the most impressive incidents I’ve seen since moving to a remote environment involved one of our interns. In the shuffle of leaving the office, developing a plan for his continued workload and support fell off my radar. When I was able to turn my attention to it, I was blown away: our intern and one of our analysts had already worked out how he could continue supporting the team, including a schedule and regular assignments. This kind of initiative is exactly what we needed in that moment, and demonstrates leadership can happen at all levels of an organization.
- Use remote work as an opportunity to support learning: While it may feel counterintuitive, now is a great time to enhance skillsets. Have a meeting where notes need to be taken? Have a new hire join—it’ll help establish whether they’re understanding the topic and details. Forgoing a typical onboarding? Have a more senior “mentor” on the team show a new hire or junior person how to do administrative tasks like setting up a conference call, submitting an expense report, what internal resources are available for IT or other needs. This establishes both an understanding of the broader business environment, as well as a relationship with another team member as both a connection and resource.
- Lead by example: If leaders are encouraging teams to have a healthy work-life balance, they must demonstrate this in their own life. Schedule breaks—and take them. Schedule paid time off—and stick to it. Set clear boundaries with “online” and “offline” time—and communicate that with teams. Even consider setting up “office hours” and “focus time,” setting a clear delineation between time where there are collaborative calls or video chats, and time for focusing on work. The only way employees will feel good about work-life balance is if their leader is doing it, too.
- Make time to have fun: It can be hard to take a step back and see the bigger picture at the moment, especially while balancing family and home obligations. But, there have long been studies on why team building is critical to success, and that can’t fall to the wayside. For new hires, host meet-and-greet virtual events across practices; host virtual trivia or happy hours; and set time aside to connect as people—not just as employees. Ensuring people feel welcome and part of the team now will pay dividends later.
There’s no question that remote work has put pressure on our ability to connect, particularly for new hires or those early in their careers. But by taking small steps now, we can create a stronger team for the long haul.