Integrating yourself into a virtual team as a newbie when everyone is in a virtual office, is a different story all together.
Fingers are slowly coming off pause buttons and the industry cogs are beginning to turn once more. Clients have adjusted to the new normal and are starting to sign off concepts, which means agencies in turn are having to think once more about resource. The ‘show must go on’ as they say, which is pretty fortunate for me, because I have (thankfully) landed my dream creative-agency role at Because in Sydney.
Naturally I was grateful (and to be honest...relieved), but I was also a little apprehensive and confused when I started. Even in normal circumstances integrating yourself into a team as a newbie is a tad daunting. Integrating yourself into a team as a newbie when everyone is in a virtual office, is a whole different story altogether.
A few weeks in and my nerves have settled, the work I’m doing has been appreciated, and I already really feel like I’m part of the team, although virtually. As the industry gets back to business as “usual”, with remote-working still being a must, others may find themselves in a similar position. So, I’ve shared some tips below for those who, like myself, will also be starting a new role in a ‘virtual’ environment.
Communication is key
Use the right channel, at the right time. We all know this, but without the now considered luxury of in-person interaction, you need to prioritise your internal contact through a mix of mediums; the key four being video, phone, email and instant messaging. Think which works best for what purpose. I like to have written emails, video tutorials and documents on file as learning resources. I use phone calls to debrief, find context and ask any initial questions, and Slack messages for quick comms like questions or clarifications that pop up along the way. Whichever way works for you, I would definitely suggest using a range of communication channels to get a broad understanding of what you’re doing. Think about the way in which you work best and ask your peers what works for them / the business...and then find a happy medium.
Setup regular catch-ups with your line manager. Now is not the time to worry about being clingy. Self starters, this truly is your time to shine! Ensure you’re keeping your manager up to speed across your to-do lists, send progress updates and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t need to ‘prove’ you are putting in some pretty impressive hours by reciting the many tasks you have undertaken each and every day, just summarize your key actions at the end of each week.
It's ok to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you can’t think for yourself, etc. Good managers, like the ones I have at Because, empathize and understand that working remotely adds another layer of confusion to a new job, so if you don’t feel you can get it right first time yourself, or you just need some pointers, then don’t be shy to reach out.
Engage with your team. It’s easy to sit quietly during group Zoom meetings when you’re new. While internally you’re trying to wrap your head around what everyone’s talking about, try and contribute where you can, either by asking questions or sharing what you’re working on, it might not seem as relevant as everyone else’s agenda, but they will be interested to see how you’re tracking. And having a voice matters, so try think in advance how you can contribute and add real value to the call.
Get to know the companies’ personality and ‘modus operandi’. I enjoyed Because’s blog last week on how to look and sound good on Zoom, and laughed equally as loud in a few pointers on the blog this week on Zoom etiquette. It’s early days but I can already see Zoomposiums don’t exist at Because, which is a blessing as they’d be quite scary for a newbie.
Think creatively on how you can immerse yourself in the company culture
It’s hard knowing you won’t be able to experience the little things that would typically help you build your work relationships IRL. No, you might not get the same banter flowing as you would during Friday-night drinks at the pub, nor can you get a coffee together before work while you catch up on what you did the night before. So it’s important that you find other ways to show your team who you are while working remotely. You can do this by diving into the extracurriculars!
Step up to a social role - Last week I hosted a Zoom games’ night. Although I was a little nervous due to including senior team members and other regions whom I had never spoken to before, this gave me an opportunity to speak to everyone in a more relaxed ‘setting,’ and engage with each team member more than I would have done normally.
Contribute to group chats - Share a good playlist, some work inspiration or articles relevant to your project or company. Doing this will not only be helpful, but will give your team some insight into your character and interests. My colleagues at Because have all shown me they appreciate the pieces I’ve sent through.
Make an effort to chat to other colleagues - even if you’re not working directly with all of your colleagues, shoot them a Slack message to say hi. If you’re comfortable, you could follow them on social media. This way you can spark up a conversation about the trip they might have gone on that they posted a #tbt photo about, or ask for the recipe of the cupcakes you saw on their Instastory. In these digital times, they’ll look at you less like an Insta-stalker, and appreciate you trying to get to know them
Starting a new job, meeting a new team and finding your place at the table is always exciting, but it can also be daunting when there is no table as such, no matter how welcoming people are. Add remote working and a virtual office to the whole situation, and it’s enough to send stress levels soaring. Relax, you’ve got this. A screen can be an easy thing to hide behind, so remember to put yourself out there. Even virtually, it’s clear Because has a great company culture, and although I can’t wait to meet my colleagues IRL, I certainly do already feel like a valued part of the team.
With a background in travel marketing, I enjoy the diverse and collaborative nature of working in a creative agency. My love for live and virtual events continues on weekends (excluding during C19 of course), as you’ll often find me at a music gig, comedy show or art exhibition.