April 15, 2020

My Experience Starting a New Job and Being Evacuated on Day 1 Because of COVID-19

Business leaders

I started working for Cledara on what was, for me, day one of the pandemic. This is my experience joining a company right before going into lockdown.

My journey to Cledara started just before Christmas. The startup I was working for -which had given me a substantial pay rise and assured me that my job was secure- was struggling to find financing. They had to let me go in February and I started looking for a new job right away. I came across Cledara and the job description fitted my profile, so I was hopeful when I applied.

During our second interview, Cristina and Brad told me their main criterion for selecting someone was the cultural fit. They have a very good eye. Cledara’s values -respect, trust, empathy, curiosity and transparency- are, along with kindness, my core values as well.

I joined Cledara at the beginning of March, on a Friday and I was hyped and ready to start. At around 1pm we were evacuated from the office. A member of our co-working space had been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19. By then I knew I was up for a shaky start.

By the end of the next week, Cristina and Brad decided we start observing the rules of social distancing, thus working from home, even before the measures were officially imposed in the UK. Basically I started my job when the world was closing its doors.

The cool part

Countering the distress and anxiety that comes with a world pandemic and the social distancing measures has been easy for me. This amazing “new job feeling” is helping my mood a lot. It is quite simple to find motivation and there are many things to do. I am learning new things all the time and I am very excited to start working every day.

Another perk: I just love working from home. I was already doing it regularly in my former job. I like working at my own pace and using the natural short breaks my brain needs to clear the dishwasher or fold socks (I know, exciting this life of mine).

Working also helps me to remain engaged and energetic, which are important things when I don’t have too many things to “recharge my batteries” with. My partner and I went to lots of concerts, ate out and regularly hosted dinners with friends. With most of those things gone overnight, achieving a healthy life-work balance is harder.  Even if “life part” is practically frozen, it has been great that there is a nice “work part” to counter it.

The main challenge

Getting to know my new team and discover their unique dynamics is one of the main objectives for the first couple of months in a job. It is always a challenge to find my place in a new environment, understand the rationale behind instructions and adapt to the new team. This process has been harder and taken longer because we don’t share a physical space.

Written communication is the most common between me and the rest of the team which sometimes leads to misunderstandings and anxiety on my side (and probably on the rest of the team, since communication does not exist in isolation). Interpreting Slack chats is stressful, even more so since I didn’t get to know the team at a personal level.

My humble advice

From my experience of starting a job at a time when the world is going to s***t, there are some things that are helping me overcome the challenges mentioned above.

Organise your time and create rituals, deliberately

It has been good for me to follow a routine. It happened naturally: having my coffee at 8am and start working afterwards. Cutting at around 1pm to fix a quick lunch and closing the computer at around 7pm to do other things. I am now making a conscious effort to maintain them since having a routine helps me get on with the day smoothly.

There are office rituals that are important to re-create, like the natural checking-in chat that happens each morning, or a break to have a cup of tea in the afternoon. Cristina and Brad created virtual coffee breaks to open those spaces again, and I feel they work. They are fun and we share a bit more about ourselves, our mood and what we’ve been up to in this confinement.

Over-communicate and ask for feedback, with care

One way to counter the stress that comes from interpreting Slack chats is to ask as many questions as I need to understand what’s going through the other person’s mind. I try to explain my doubts, where they come from and that also helps the other understand my actions more clearly. I also ask for feedback a lot.

These behaviors, however, might be read as insecurity. In a way they are. I am not sure about how my work and interactions are perceived, so I ask a bit more to clarify. Let’s call that the good insecurity. There is a very thin line, however, between the good insecurity and the bad one.

Remember this will come to an end

It has been important to me to remember that these are exceptional times. Even though I’m still in the middle of this whirlwind, I trust my learning process. I know that I can adapt quickly to new situations and I’m not afraid to walk in the dark. Furthermore, I feel my compass gets better each time I get out of my comfort zone.

This process will bring interesting knowledge, processes, and insights for all of us. I am all for embracing it, facing the challenges face on, and change strategies if the ones I am using doesn’t work. I am all for creative solutions, so trying, failing and learning is also good. My constant willingness to improve and do my very best is the main value I can bring to Cledara right now.



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