Remote Work · Employee Onboarding April 21st, 2020

Remote onboarding during a crisis – a firsthand employee experience


This is a guest post by Lindsey Monderman, Project Coordinator at Punchcard. Her responsibilities include oversight on project timelines and project resourcing. In this post, she talks about her experience with remote onboarding into her new role with the team at Punchcard.


I decided in early January of 2020 that my goal for the year was to make a career change. I had been working with the same organization for fourteen years, and it was time for me to move on. I submitted my application to Punchcard in late January, interviewed in the following weeks, and accepted the job at the end of February. I needed time to finish up at my current job, so the start date was set for March 23.

In the three weeks between accepting the job and starting at Punchcard, the entire world changed. My first day at work was not going to be anything like what I had envisioned. Not only was I coming into a new role in a new field, but the company was moving all staff to remote work and adjusting to maintain and build client relationships. As a Project Coordinator, I knew that to be successful in the role I needed to be able to build solid relationships with the entire team. I was nervous about this when I thought I was going to be able to meet everyone in person and have casual and consistent contact within the office environment. Knowing that I was now going to have to figure out how to build relationships through online meetings (with which I had no experience) increased my anxiety significantly.

The change in work environment due to the COVID-19 crisis also brought on new worries. How was I going to manage childcare and working at home? What would the company expectations be in this new environment? Did I have the technical skills to be able to figure out how to connect with everyone on my own? Did I have the equipment I needed to work from home? Was my job going to be secure, or was I going to get laid off as soon as I started? A whole number of new unknowns had cropped up in a matter of days. The nervousness, anxiety, and uncertainty that I was feeling surrounding my career change were now amplified.

Looking forward

One of the things I was most excited about in starting with Punchcard was the company culture and the social nature of the work. When I realized that I would be joining the team from the comfort of my own home, I was disappointed. I’d been looking forward to a bike ride commute and being in an office full of interesting people. Remote work is not the same experience as meeting everyone in person, but the Punchcard team has been diligent in finding ways to maintain regular team building activities and continuing to build culture through online mediums.

All the other things that I was excited about in changing jobs were still the same. I wanted new challenges, a more dynamic work environment, and opportunities to learn new things. I had to focus on not letting the change in work environment overshadow my reasons for making the switch and my enthusiasm for the new job.

Reflections

Reflecting on the last two weeks and the onboarding process has made me realize how integral attitude is in shaping an experience. I was able to cope with all the changes and embrace the uncertainty of the situation by focusing on the things that I could control, the most important being my own attitude and mental state. Being able to mentally re-frame challenging situations into positive outcomes has really helped me navigate the onboarding process. When I was feeling uncomfortable in a meeting because I was unfamiliar with the topic and felt the discussion was beyond my knowledge, I had to remind myself that this was an opportunity to learn. When the flow of information felt overwhelming, I needed to take a deep breath and look at it as practice in identifying priorities and important information. In conjunction with a focus on positive opportunities, I found it very important to remind myself that I was chosen by the company for this role. They are confident that I am a value to the team and the remote onboarding and pandemic doesn’t change that. If anything, the change in work environment has provided an opportunity to make an even greater impact in this role. Finally, I recognize that we are all in this together. The entire team is figuring out how to work remotely and we are all facing similar challenges, I just happen to be the newest member.

I have also been fortunate in this remote onboarding process that Punchcard is a company with a strong, inclusive culture. Being made to feel welcome by all team members and knowing immediately that everyone was available to help, answer questions, and provide support has made all the difference. I was able to share my worries and concerns early and receive open and honest answers. They had a plan for the onboarding process, but were consistently soliciting feedback from me, as this was new to all of us. That went a long way to making me feel included and that my opinions were valuable.

Lessons Learned

The key takeaways from my personal experience with remote onboarding during this COVID-19 crisis are:

  • Mentally reframe challenges to find a positive outcome.
  • Focus on what you can control, especially your attitude.
  • Be willing to ask all your questions (big and small).
  • Company culture can make or break the experience.

While remote onboarding into a new job was not what I was expecting, or hoping for, I can say that the overall experience has been a positive one. My additional worries due to the COVID pandemic were mostly alleviated during the first two days, as I was able to ask my questions and get clear answers. I have been forced to actively seek out contact with team members which has allowed me to make meaningful connections early due to our shared struggles with COVID and remote work. The situation has also made me hone my mental and physical coping skills for challenging situations. The remote onboarding experience during a global crisis has made me stronger, more resilient, and a better teammate. I hope that by sharing my experience it will help others to cope with, and grow from, similar situations.

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