Part of the Team: Starting a New Job During a Global Pandemic
How to feel connected to your teammates when you’re all spread apart.
Stepping into the office on my first day at Elixir Design back in late February was exciting. I knew through the interview process that I was about to work with incredible people, and the position aligned well with my skills and career goals. Everything was virtually perfect.
After two weeks though, my enthusiasm and confidence had significantly faded. While everybody was trying to be welcoming, I realized that I very much felt like an outsider. I was the new person coming into a team that had been working together for a very long time. They had inside jokes, they had habits I wasn’t familiar with… They spoke a completely different language.
When I confided in my wife about the situation, she reassured me that it was just a question of time and that soon enough, I’d be in on the jokes with everybody. And then, COVID-19 happened. As we were directed to work from home, it was decided we would have a team meeting every morning to start the day, and then keep in close contact through Slack and other channels.
When we used to see each other all day, hollering questions to one another being a normal occurrence, this new way of working was to be a big adjustment to our daily work routines. Physically and emotionally, it also felt like it was interrupting the process of trying to connect to my teammates. How would I be able to feel part of the Elixir team when we were all scattered and apart?
While this was on my mind, there was so much more to think about. Like many others, I worried about the virus and how it might affect the people I love. I worked on arranging a support system for my grandparents in France. I discussed with my wife, who has lost her income as a cinematographer, how to manage our finances and still support her family in Mexico for the months to come.
Juggling many thoughts and worries became the new normal.
With everything hazy, following a work routine has kept me anchored. As planned, every morning we’ve had a conference call to check on each other and the progress made on our client work. Stepping into the unknown land of remote work, we’ve tried our best to acclimate.
As the world was closing, shutting, and sheltering, our first thought was to reach out to our community. As a team, we worked together on a newsletter to express how we were feeling and send a message of hope and unity. Through this creative back and forth — words, colors, which dash looks right, everybody participating and giving feedback — I felt more connected to my new team than I had ever felt before.
Each day after that has intensified that feeling. There is something about the way we are coming together as a group in such intense and strange circumstances. A day doesn’t go by where we don’t check on each other’s physical and mental health. The distance between us has only increased our need and desire for communication.
In Buddhist philosophy they talk about how distancing yourself from something can make you feel closer to it. I believe it to be true. Being in constant communication with the team, supporting each other, and working towards helping others has been the best recipe to bring me closer to my teammates.
I am unsure of what will come of these strange, uncertain days. I can only hope for strength and solidarity. What I am sure of, is that I am lucky and proud to be part of the Elixir Team. Everything is now — virtually — perfect.