Facetime (or Zoom) with the boss: Starting at a new PR agency during the lockdown

Serena By Serena

Not in a thousand years would I have imagined starting a new job during a global crisis. For a while, I found it to be a good hook for a self-deprecating joke – ‘this could only happen to me! ’ – but this joke quickly became tiresome when I realised the reality of my situation: I’d be starting a new job with no one else around to help me navigate my role at a new agency.

When starting any new job there is the expected culture shock. There’s a new clan of colleagues to get to know, a new boss to be introduced to, as well as needing to get to grips with the role itself. But when my first day in the office meant that over 50 per cent of my colleagues were working from home, it felt surreal as though the reality of how serious the pandemic was being taken had kicked in. "We can’t shake hands" and "Sorry that not everyone is here to meet you" were two familiar phrases used when navigating an office space that I’d only be familiar with for a few hours.

Ever since my initial first day, the guest bedroom in my parent’s house has become transformed into a makeshift office space, comprising of a patio table, dining room chair, and the guest bed flipped onto its side. Of course, I haven’t been able to meet everyone physically in-person, but my second day involved a flurry of virtual messages welcoming me to Spark from unseen colleagues who I’d later meet over video calls via company or team meetings.

Meeting colleagues virtually has become my new normal. Starting a new job can be a challenge at the best of times, but this has certainly been magnified under the lens of the crisis! Starting at a new agency and working remotely means that I, like many others, are relying on video conferencing calls to read body language. Trust me it is a lot more difficult on camera, especially when I haven’t met a lot of my colleagues face-to-face or for long enough to establish certain subtle cues!

However, Spark has demonstrated from the offset that these concerns should be overcome. Communication is one of the agency's strongest points and this doesn’t seem to have been deterred by the pandemic either. The virus hasn’t prevented Spark from providing thorough training and inductions for a newbie like me, nor has it stilted teams from working collaboratively to meet deadlines and produce great work for clients. In terms of keeping workplace morale high, this hasn’t been deterred either as the teams continue to congregate for regular virtual pub quizzes and coffee breaks.

The past three months have been an unforgettable experience when starting a new job. Providing me with a real-life example of how quickly businesses such as Spark have had to adapt in the face the pandemic to ensure new joiners like me feel at home (both figuratively and literally!)