Having worked in local government for seven-ish years, changing job and teams is something that I have become used to.
Whenever I start a new job my head is instantly filled with questions:
“Will I fit in?”
“Will I be any good at the job?”
“How comfy are the chairs?”
My first two weeks
While it's true to say these questions were swimming around in my head at the start of March, when I joined my new team at Essex County Council as a user researcher, they were soon drowned out by the excitement of the new role and the challenges this would bring.
My first two weeks in the team were a whirlwind of activity. This included user interviews, a cross-collaboration workshop, meetings and new projects. A hectic start. Then, at the beginning of week 3, we received the instruction that we were to work from home for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Separating home and work
I am no stranger to working from home, but typically it's for one day a week. Now it would be every day, blurring the lines between an office space and a living space, made more difficult by the newly introduced social distancing and stay at home advice issued by central government.
What happened to weekends?
Working and living in the same space has been hard to get to grips with. Home is more comfortable than the office and the coffee is better, but it is much more difficult to separate the two.
Weekends don’t feel like weekends and it’s touch and go whether I know what day of the week it is. I can confirm that the chairs are comfy though.
Team bonding via screens can work
The way we are working has also changed. Instead of getting to know my new team through time spent in the office, we are instead relying on daily video calls to talk about anything and everything, not just the work. It might not be face to face but I don’t think I would have spoken to my colleagues as much, or as generally as I have, via video. A real positive in the circumstances.
An unexpected but positive start
It’s not been how you would picture the first month in a new job, but it has been a positive one. The team have been welcoming and are very supportive of each other, looking to collaborate wherever possible. Everyone is adapting – to new ways of working, new technology and how to best help the various communities in Essex during these difficult times.
The questions filling my head before I started have largely vanished, replaced by some new and unfamiliar ones:
“What work will we be doing?”
“How will we do the work?”
“When will we be back in the office?”
“How do I stop eating everything in the house?”
Answers to some of these are starting to take shape, with projects due to gather pace in the coming days and weeks. But if anyone has any tips for the last question, I’m all ears!