Joining a New Team in the Virtual World

I turned the big 4-0 at the start of this year. Given the times we are in it certainly was a more low-key celebration compared to what I had imagined. I’m lucky though, my family and I have no ill effects from the virus, and we will put the champagne on ice until that party with loved ones can take place. However, in gearing up for my milestone birthday I did make one rather bold decision, to change my role.

In March, I joined the Communications team at Bright Horizons. As a father with two children aged six and two, joining a company with Work and Family solutions at its heart very much appealed to me. A brand-new challenge awaited, but as the weeks got closer to my start date the UK lockdown situation made it clear that I wouldn’t be commuting to a new office anytime soon. Instead, it would be a case of starting my new role at home while sharing home-schooling commitments with my wife.

I’m now three months into this new (relatively static) journey and thankfully we’re in a place as a society where many restrictions are easing. Schools are open and I’ve actually had a haircut. Despite not really going anywhere, I’m very much enjoying the leap into something different.

Although my recent experience was one of moving to a new employer, we all know that even changing job role within the same company can be daunting – especially at a time when so many of us are working remotely. How do you ease yourself into an established team and learn what you need to know?  Here’s what I found helpful:

  • Give yourself time

    Starting a new role at any time is never easy. It’s not ideal just doing it over a screen, but at least you don’t have to do the tedious element of battling the rush hour traffic. In many ways my first couple of weeks allowed me to ease in gently: online training and then lots of one-to-one calls with new colleagues really did help me find my feet.

  • Be personal

    The thing I really miss is the random. Meeting someone at the kettle and having a chat while waiting for it to brew. Or going for a walk at lunch with colleagues. Thankfully even in the virtual world that element is alive and kicking in our team. On our catch-up call most of us are eating lunch and it’s never a case of going straight into work requirements. Everyone takes the time to check in with each other and see how people are doing – that’s been really important in helping me get to know my new teammates.  And in April, I actually managed to take a walk in real life with some of them, as part of a company wellbeing initiative (#HalfaMillionMiles), which was really great to do.

  • Ask questions

    You must ask questions when you start a new role. And, when everything is digital there really is no other way to find out the answers other than by asking. Navigating around the company server and trying to learn where to go for information is a bit of a minefield. Keep asking and it does start to make more sense. Every team has its own unique language and loves an acronym. Don’t pretend you know them and keep calling them out.

  • Take it one day at a time

    It can be hard to feel part of a team when you’re sat at home on your own. There really are only so many online meetings you can join before your brain starts to go into combustion mode. Take time to step away from the screen and digest the conversations. You are new, no one expects you to have all the answers and dodgy Wi-Fi connection happens to everyone at some point. Keep breathing, keep smiling and keep going.

  • The flip-side: how to make a new teammate feel welcome

    It doesn’t have to be so different than if you were there in the office. Say ‘hi’ and just have a coffee and a chat together when you first meet online. If your diary is stacked, then look to schedule something when it works for you. Just don’t then be a stranger. As the weeks go by your new colleague will no doubt have more questions about processes and work.

Building relationships online takes time, as it does in real life. If there are any social virtual gatherings that your team or company does then invite your new teammate to those. Or maybe even host a virtual happy hour! Keep it fun.