Eight months ago, I joined Three60 Consult just as Auckland went into Lockdown.
Like a lot of us, I thought it would be a short, sharp COVID battle and I remember optimistically suggesting to my boss that we push my start date out for a week. Thank goodness she rejected my offer!
Starting a new job in lockdown had its challenges, but returning to the office after an extended period, as many of us have found, presented just as many. It was a full six months after my start date before I finally sat at my desk. Even then, the emergence of Omicron meant the whole team was not able to come together. Rather, we worked in mini team bubbles. Today as I write, eight months have passed since my start date and I’m finally seeing the full team come together on a more regular basis.
I can tell you I was ridiculously nervous being back in the office with everyone and had to manage the new girl flutters all over again. (Anyone who’s ever tested the waters of online dating will know what I mean - there is a certain safety in online communications. We’re all brave at home, but face-to-face is a different story.)
Speaking with and listening to my friends, I’m not the only one who has found the last eight months challenging. While working from home has been transformational for some with family commitments or difficult commutes, for anyone who, like me, thrives on company and interactions, it’s been a struggle to keep the lockdown blues at bay. As much as I love my cat, eight hours spent alone at my desk can be daunting and is a real challenge for my motivation.
When I reflect on my induction from home as opposed to my new in-office refresher, the latter is leagues ahead and I realise how much I missed out on in my first six months in terms of cultural adaptivity, organisational learning, networking, and camaraderie.
It got me thinking, there must be so many of us out there, newbies like me starting in the office after an at home induction, merging back with those longer serving employees who equally are returning to a workplace where the culture that was, is no longer.
What tips have I learnt?
- Collaborative redesign of the office space: This is a great way for everyone to come together and start from scratch and feel welcome.
- Ensure everyone in the team gets the best out of technology - Learn the art of running a hybrid meeting well, celebrate the new normal which is to have some of the team at home, and some on site.
- Set up a minimum of fortnightly meetings where everyone comes face-to-face and use the time to reiterate consistent team messages and ways of working.
- Explore e-learning opportunities, such as online induction tools.
- With staff returning to the office, it’s time for a Health and Safety refresher, a reminder and introduction into Fire and Earthquake Evacuation procedure’s as well as the reporting process for workplace incidents.
- Be patient with staff who might have picked up poor habits. Remember, we all come to work, whether it’s at home or in the office, with good intention.
Word on the street is that May is the month most businesses have chosen for employees to return to the office full time. Although the lockdowns are likely a thing of the past, there is still value for businesses to take on board these tips and tricks and create sustainable work-from-home (WFH) systems to cater for those employees who may request a hybrid arrangement or any other instance where WFH may be a real option. After all, hybrid and flexible working has become a top priority for many employees.
What’s next for us newbies you ask? Especially now we’re back in the office in real life? Navigating the day-to-day culture of the office and learning to operate around colleagues is the first thing that comes to mind and something that I have definitely experienced. I’m lucky that I have now well and truly settled into my desk and the space. However, like many other newbies, I had to first experience the overwhelming process of meeting my colleagues all over again but in person, learning the office dynamics, team norms, and their quirks and perks - and worse, they mine!
In any environment, there is a chance for conflict and tensions to arise amongst team members or for culture to take a hit. At Three60 we are seeing this especially now, as new and older people enter the physical workplace and try to “pick up where they left off” despite there being obvious new changes to personalities, work habits and work ethic – largely caused by COVID.
The Team at Three60 Consult are here to help. Culture reviews, pulse checks, coaching and performance management are all services that we offer, and more. Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs with one of our Associates today.
By Maureen Glassey, Senior Associate