Blog 53

Starting a new job can feel really daunting, but starting one in the middle of a global pandemic brings a whole new set of challenges! I was lucky enough to start my job as a designer at Degree 53 in January 2020, just 3 months before the country went into lockdown.

I remember being really excited about joining the company, especially as the office was in the centre of a busy and vibrant city, and I could even walk to work – something I never thought I’d be able to do.

I spent my first few weeks settling in, learning about the business and getting to know the team. I was also put on my first design project, and began to work alongside people from all over the business, learning new processes and ways of working as I went along. These three months went by very quickly.

Then, the lockdown hit. Of course, it was unusual for everyone, so we were all in the same boat. Fortunately, Degree 53 dealt with the whole lockdown really well. We have regular standups and company meetings which help to feel like you’re still part of the company, keeping you up to date with everything that goes on. The Design team also have a weekly meeting to go through our work in detail. I’ve found these really useful to stay in the loop of the overall company development.

Usually, you’d find out what anyone is working on while making tea or having a random chat, but these meetings have made it more consistent and transparent, so everyone is aware of everyone’s work.

Because my projects have been with overseas clients, our communication would have been remote anyway, so there was no need to change anything. However, as a team, we’ve had to adapt to remote working internally. Usually, we hold design workshops in person as much as possible, and often travel or invite our clients in for them. This time, we’ve moved our workshops online and involve our clients digitally. We’ve had many big remote workshops already, and we feel we’re very well equipped to carry on doing this going forward. We have a great resource for remote workshops that works, but we also can’t wait to do them in person when it will be safe to do so.

As far as my own work goes, I have regular catch ups with my manager and we have team calls to share feedback on our projects. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with each other. It is something we’d do in the office informally, but this has been a good activity. I’ve also enjoyed all our online social activities throughout the lockdown, and it’s been fun to do them with other teams within the company.

So here are a few things that I’ve learnt since starting a job and mostly working through the Covid-19 pandemic:

1. Create a designated workspace
  • If you can, try to create an office space away from distractions.
  • The distinction between work and home is so important.
  • Having the ability to shut the door is key – both at work and at the end of the day.

2. Try to structure your day like you would in the office
  • Working in an office environment provides an easy schedule to stick by - tea breaks, lunch etc. But when working from home, it’s easy to feel like you have to be stuck to your desk all day. Try to set a routine and stick to it regularly.

3. Stay connected
  • It can feel really scary to pick up the phone and ask for help when you’re new to a company.
  • Ask questions.
  • Reach out to people.
  • Make time in your day to have short catch ups with colleagues.
  • 15Five – get feedback and high fives from people all over the company. It’s a good way of staying connected and celebrating the small things together.
  • Online tools like Slack are great at keeping the team together.
  • Team stand ups on Google Meet every morning, even if it’s just for 15 mins, is such a lovely way to start the morning. Like you would in the office, it gives everyone a chance to say hello and listen to what everyone has planned with their day. If we didn’t have that, I wouldn’t know what most of the design team was working on day in and out, or even see them! I love this start to my working day, it gets me set up and ready to go.

4. Don’t forget to take breaks
  • When you’re working from home, it is really easy to lose track of time. You might also feel like you have to be ‘online’ all the time to show your colleagues that you are working. But it is so important to take a break and get away from your desk. Think how many cups of tea you would make in the office and have a quick chat about the weekend. Try to keep these conversations going. Going for a walk and getting fresh air at lunch time is also a great way to stay motivated in the afternoon.

5. Get involved with social activities!
  • The social committee at Degree 53 organised lots of fun activities that we all could get involved remotely, such as 100k running challenge, Zoom quizzes, team drinks etc. It’s been a lot of fun and we hope to carry them on this year too.

6. Be kind to yourself and others
  • It is important to understand that we are living in unusual times, and it’s important to be kind to yourself and others. We are all in this together, learning and adapting, as best as we can.
Martha hiking
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