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Remote onboarding during a pandemic

Eoin Carey

Author: Keelin Byrne

The last thirteen months have seen drastic changes to the world because of Covid-19. Lives have been affected in every way possible and coping with these changes has been particularly challenging.
When the pandemic first loomed, I was in the final three months of completing my Master of Science in Human Resource Management from DCU. From the 12th of March 2020, with Leo Varadkar’s announcement of universities and educational institutions being disbanded until a solution could be met, a new era of remote learning – Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and working from home emerged.

Completing a degree and a dissertation from home was certainly met with challenges – adjusting to a new online version of learning, lack of social contact with lecturers and peers, difficulty with new software and trying to complete work without library resources. I must say that these challenges prepared me for the new ‘norm’ of working remotely and my first role within industry.
I began my role at Optimize Recruitment in November of 2020. After a series of online video call interviews, I was selected to join the team as a Recruitment Associate, supporting Lee Doheny in recruiting Technical professionals for the Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing and Medical Device industries.

I was fortunate that I began my role during Level 3, whereby I could travel to and from work via public transport and be present in the office for my onboarding and initial training. It was great to have had my first month in the office as I got to meet my colleagues and learn the internal processes of the organisation.

Due to current restrictions, my colleagues and I are working remotely. It has had its challenges like all individuals in my position – completing additional training via video call, having to send an email with a quick question and wait for a reply, and the feeling of isolation that comes with working on your own versus popping into someone’s office. However, we have regular ‘water cooler’ moments with the team, which is a welcome break from the hustle and a chance to get to know team members and share opinions and viewpoints on the current market.
From a recruiter’s point of view, it is fair to say that I am empathetic to the struggles one may be facing with the adjustment of the new way of working. Many candidates I have spoken to over the last number of months have never completed an online interview, or worked remotely away from their colleagues, so I find I can empathise more with them as I too know how daunting it can be in the beginning.

I do feel however that despite some drawbacks of working from home, there are certain gains to be made also. Working from home has made me more independent and reliant on my own judgment, certainly an advantage given the nature and pace of the recruitment industry.

I also appreciate even more, the daily interaction with colleagues, the feedback and the comradery felt within a workplace environment. I look forward to the return of ‘normal’ work practices, but I appreciate what this pandemic has taught me in terms of adjusting to working remotely and being independent.

Here are some of my tips for working at home:
1. Design your own Specific Work Zone. Workspace should indeed be separated from other rooms, such as bedrooms and living rooms. Ideally somewhere you can focus on tasks without being distracted. It is also important than when you finish work you leave this area to revert to your home environment.

2. Get dressed up! Changing into work clothes will help you switch to productive work mode. Once the workday is finished, the loungewear can be swapped over. This will help you distinguish between ‘home working’ and ‘home life’.

3. I am a fan of to-do lists. Set out a list of realistic, achievable tasks to keep you focused on and split these into daily and weekly achievable tasks. Ideally pop them into your Outlook calendar so you can get the pleasure of ticking the completion box!

4. You need to know when to step away from your desk. So, when work is over, switch off and ensure you take regular breaks throughout the day.

5. In the current environment, communication is key – so stay in conversation. Ensure to keep in contact with your work colleagues via Zoom/Teams or email. Ask other people how they are getting on and share your thoughts. While we all miss the ‘water cooler’ moments, this is a means to keep informed. So, make time for non-work chats as you would in the office.

6. As John Donne once said, “No man is an island, entire of itself”. So, ask for support when needed. Your manager, work colleagues and you are all part of a team who are all working through these unprecedented times. We should all be supporting each other, especially remotely.

7. Remember to enjoy the small perks – you get to play whatever music you like, swapping the work shoes for slippers, and you avoid the traffic congestions. Home life begins 1 minute after you finish work and not after the commute home.

Contact Keelin via e-mail: Keelin@optimizerecruitment.ie