3 problems in making newbies feel like team members… remotely
by Amelia Kaczmarek

Let’s be honest – the pandemic has been a strange time for all. We had to learn how to adjust to completely new, more restrictive circumstances and loads of free time some of us experienced in lockdown lead to some soul-searching and reprioritizing.

This was certainly the case for me. I’d been thinking about a career change for a while, but it wasn’t until the pandemic started that I really decided to take that important step and look for a new job. It was a stressful time. Changing a career while everything is turning upside down was not an easy decision, but I’m glad I trusted my instincts and sent my CV to AppUnite. I’d like to share some thoughts on the initiatives that worked during the onboarding process, which made me feel like a team member, even though I still haven’t met most of my colleagues face to face.

1. Meeting people

Joining a new team and a new company while everyone is working from home is… strange. Especially if, like me, you join a very small team and only occasionally get a chance to talk to other people from the company. Remembering faces and names is already difficult, and when you don’t get to see those faces – it seems impossible.

AppUnite, however, has had some great ideas on how to make sure people connect. For one, everybody has their photos uploaded on Slack, which we use for quick communication. That made it a bit easier to feel like I’m talking to real humans and not Matrix-generated Smiths (who can tell for sure though… ;D).

Another great initiative is “motivational coffee meet-ups” – these one-hour meetings are voluntary. Different topics and TED talks are discussed and they’re all meant to help us be better team players. For me, this was a great way of meeting some of the people I might not necessarily work with directly but who make up the AppUnite family. And I learned some great things about listening skills, strategic thinking and more!

Last but not least – weekly company meetings. These are pretty brief; they usually don’t take longer than 30 minutes. During these meetings, our CEO tells us about the current strategy and goals but also answers questions, which we’re free to ask at any given moment. This is also where newbies are introduced to their office family. We get to see each other and chat a bit in the zoom chatbox that’s always exploding with jokes and commentary – a great way to make sure everyone is brought together and knows who’s who.

2. Equipment

Not every person joining your team will have the conditions at home to work efficiently and, perhaps more importantly, healthily. Apart from that, if they’ve just joined and they’re unable to come to the office for onboarding – you need to figure out a way to get their equipment to them.

I was lucky enough to experience onboarding while our office was still more or less open. Most people were still working from home, but the second lockdown hadn’t started yet, so I was able to pick up my brand new laptop and welcome package directly from our wonderful People team. However, I’ve had the chance to see how the company dealt with ensuring people who were unable to come due to quarantine or other inhibitions still received their welcome packages and necessary working tools. The solution is simple – couriers. I’ve seen with my own eyes how the People team tirelessly prepared wonderful packages for the team members who couldn’t turn up at the office. Such a simple approach, but I think almost everyone loves receiving packages and if they’re filled with goods that make you feel welcome at the company you’ve just joined – all the better.

Secondly – the company made it clear to me right from the start that should a second lockdown happen, I could borrow at least some of the company equipment to make my working environment at home friendlier to my neck and back – I could take that big old monitor home with me to ensure I was maintaining a healthy posture throughout those eight hours of computer work. This may seem obvious, but it made me feel like I had their trust and knowing that someone trusts you does wonders for motivation, particularly when you have to responsibly manage your time while working at home.

3. Disconnection

This may seem similar to the first problem, but it isn’t. This issue goes beyond simple “hello” and remembering names. When you join a company remotely, there is a risk you will never really feel like you’re part of a larger team, working towards the same goal. This is especially true for software development companies, where people mostly work on different projects. People might like their team members and collaborate with them efficiently but have no connection with the rest of the company, which might result in them feeling disconnected from the company as a whole.

This is not good. People want to feel like they’re working towards something relevant and that there are people out there willing to help them out if they find themselves facing a problem they’re not sure how to solve.

So how does AppUnite work towards addressing this issue? A series of presentations done by leaders of each product team, where they talk about what they’re working on. This lets everybody know who to talk to, should they need to find something out about a particular product and its challenges.

We’re constantly reminded that, if we are struggling with something, we are free to talk to people from other teams. That way, teams collaborate not only within their smaller structures, but the whole company becomes a web for exchanging ideas, information and knowledge. The team working on one project might share an issue, and someone from a different team might offer a solution.

Small gestures such as shipping pastries to people’s homes on holiday – this very recent event was heartwarming and once again reminded me (a newbie) that I am now part of a 100+ office family.

Conclusions

All in all – working remotely doesn’t have to ruin your experience as a newbie in a company. Really simple solutions and proper use of available tools can ensure that no matter how recently you joined, you still feel that you’re welcomed, trusted and relied on. And now you have people you can rely on too!

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