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Remote starters: The good, the bad and the glitchy

Over the past year, the Jigsaw24 family has grown considerably – which means our HR and IT teams have been onboarding new staff remotely. We fired up Zoom to find out how it went, what they’d change, and what tips they have for any other remote starters out there…

Liz Sunter

The past 18 months have seen us take on new colleagues in every department, from sales to finance to marketing. While some roles are more suited to remote working than others (our marketing manager is quite happy wherever there’s an internet connection, our engineers less so) we like to think things have gone fairly smoothly for this year’s additions to the Jigsaw24 family. And thankfully, they think so too…

 

Let start by talking about how starting remotely was different to starting a new job in person.

Angela Wake, HR Development Officer: In the beginning it felt very strange. We always meet people in person, normally at a set time when they first come into the building. Meeting someone remotely feels very personal because you’re meeting them in their own home. But over time, and with a little bit of tweaking here and there, it’s become fantastic, and I actually feel that the timing of our inductions has changed for the better.

Joe Yates, Apprentice Support Technician: COVID restrictions meant I could only come in to the office for a few days a week when I was hired, so I started half-remotely. I was meeting new colleagues through Zoom and Microsoft Teams, but Jigsaw24 managed to successfully adapt their enrolment process to ensure a smooth start to the job and make me feel welcomed into the company.

Robin Mitchell, Education Manager: I have done a lot of roles in the past, including with overseas companies, where the onboarding was remote. I suppose the biggest difference is that, as an IT company, Jigsaw24 are very connected through technology anyway, and that smooths out a lot of the angst of disconnection.

Lee Dalgleish, Designer: Starting a new job remotely was the polar opposite to how I started my previous job. When I worked for my previous company, the process was to meet the team and have a day’s induction to ease you into the office. With the pandemic, starting a new job has meant three months of working from home before eventually coming to the office.

Jemma Cameron-Stuart, Security and Compliance Officer: My first day was spent at head office and I much preferred this to remote induction; you can get a real taste of the company values and objectives by being there, and it’s much easier to understand how your role fits within the business.

The remainder of my induction was completed online – thankfully modern technological advances have resulted in Teams and Zoom, so it wasn’t as difficult as I originally anticipated. If this were the 90s, I know I would have found the transition much more difficult to manage. 

 

What was most difficult about the remote starter experience?

Alexandra Mihut, Digital Marketing Manager: Learning about a business is inherently difficult and it becomes even more difficult when remote. A lot of the info that sinks in comes from your colleagues talking to each other, so that was greatly missed. It was difficult to get the ad-hoc information and the wider context which comes from office chats. 

Mark Hull, Head of Technical Services: Probably the lack of personal touches. It’s always much easier to engage when you can grab a coffee in the early days and ask for five minutes of someone’s time to show you a process or system, sitting beside them as they show you on their screen.

Jemma: I felt extremely supported by my colleagues, but it was a steep learning curve and I needed to learn a completely new sector in a very short space of time. In addition, there are a lot of IT and Apple acronyms to learn – I’m still working on these! But I’d like to thank my colleagues Ed and Neil for mentoring me for my first few weeks and making sure I felt supported.

 
How did technology help make the process smoother?

Angela: We use the Hibob HR system, which allowed us to streamline the onboarding process – new starters were able to upload their ID to the system prior to starting, and we were able to check this with the individual on their start date. We’ve been able to apply read receipts to contract and offer letters to confirm that the new starter is happy with them, which has helped from a compliance point of view.

Phoebe Bouffay, Sales Support: MicrosoftTeams has been brilliant for doing training and getting to know my team virtually. The screen share function has been very useful and worked really well.

Robin: Hibob has been invaluable in getting to understand who does what. I had a few minor teething problems to overcome as some aspects of the Apple ecosystem were unfamiliar to me, but our IT support team has been excellent (and rapid!) in helping iron out those niggles.

Jemma: Teams and Zoom have helped me significantly. Without these I would not have learnt as much as I have. We also use the Teams channels for general queries, which means minor queries don’t get lost in the ether. Video conferencing also helped me to properly meet my team, who were absent from my first day due to COVID-induced office capacity reduction. It’s also enabled the team to conduct weekly progress report meetings with minimal disruption (other than remembering to unmute). 

Mark: Having three screens was definitely a bonus! Video conferencing is key to any business being able to operate efficiently, and the words ‘Teams’ and ‘Zoom’ are now bounced around in place of ‘mobile’ and ‘meeting room’. 

Nihal Shetty, Service Desk Engineer: As Jigsaw24 supplied all the resources that I would need and have if I was working in the office, I was able to just focus on learning everything that I needed and compiling notes without being hindered by older technology.

 

Did you notice any recurring issues, and do you have any tips on how other new starters can solve them?

Angela: If people have wanted extra help with their Mac and navigating their way around our systems, then we have pointed them to our intranet resources, but IT have also helped out. Members of the support team have joined the inductions remotely to offer assistance where needed. 

Mark: Everything worked out the box for me, which is great to see given we focus many of our solutions on zero-touch deployments.

Jemma: It’s much easier to start a remote job today than it was ten years ago due to video conferencing, but as starting a new job can be overwhelming and you may forget certain points of your induction, it’s a good idea to take notes you can revert back to. 

Alexandra: When you’re in the office you just turn and ask a question, but when you’re home you cannot just video call someone: it feels intrusive. Try and arrange some open video sessions where everyone can log in at the same time and just work together online, so new starters can interact more naturally with their colleagues.

 

Do you have any advice for remote starters, or teams that are struggling to integrate them?

Phoebe: I would say just keep up communication if you’re not sure of anything. Teams is great for that, as you can message or video call someone quickly. My colleagues, Sally and Elaine, were lovely and helpful for my first three days in the office – they got me a taxi home with all my equipment, which was very kind. My whole team have been brilliant and very welcoming, which I hope is the case for everyone.

Robin: In my inaugural online meeting, it has been a nice touch to find out I was an agenda item and to receive a warm welcome from everyone. Much respect to my Line Manager, Carlton, for marketing me in advance!

Alexandra: For anyone who starts remotely I would say don’t be afraid to call people on video. Calling on video is the new turning your chair around and just asking people! I would like to thank everyone from the Marcomms team, including our designers and copywriters – you’ve been awesome!

Mark: Forward planning and communication was key for me when starting a new role throughout the pandemic. Without it, uncertainty and a sense of not belonging can creep in. Luckily, I can say this has not been my experience at Jigsaw24 and the welcome I’ve received has been overwhelming.

I’d also advise companies to keep checking new tech! The one thing the pandemic has done is speed up the rate at which the vendors have developed their solutions. At the beginning of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams could only show six tiles and was not great at focusing on the speaker. Now it can blur the background, set a corporate background, show 49 participants’ videos and even pop you all into a virtual theatre.

 

Thanks to all our team members for sharing their experiences! To find out more about what it’s like to work with us, visit Jigsaw24.com/careers.

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