An unlucky few have spent months working in new jobs despite never having met their colleagues. What has it been like not even to have seen the water cooler, let alone share a water cooler moment?
Aisling Rowe, advocate in the children and families team, London Borough of Croydon (joined July 2020)
New job preparation involved locating a desk where the shouting of my children would be least intrusive. I’d definitely recommend allocating responsibility for children by any means possible while you’re attempting to meet new people and remember names.
I was so keen to become absorbed in anything different from the grinding reality of the last few months of home schooling, I found it surprisingly easy to become immersed in the virtual workplace. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and I like to think I fit in pretty well.
I have managed to meet with a few colleagues once. They were shorter/taller than I had imagined, the face that usually filled the screen had depth and gestures and fidgets. There was definitely a part of their personality that I hadn’t accessed in the online chats that I could see better when we met in person.
Natalie Pibworth, senior associate, Tees Law (April 2020)
My last day at my old firm was due to be 3 April. It was strange and somewhat sombre to clean out my desk, lock up the office and leave with not a soul in the building to say goodbye to.
A three-week European trip between jobs was scuppered, so I volunteered for Isolation Help Bexley, dropping off prescriptions and food packages.
Another solicitor joined on the same day and, before starting, we were invited to virtual social events aimed at keeping people connected when they could not be in the office with each other. This acted as a good introduction to new colleagues.
There were regular phone check-ins from our line manager, head of department and IT training team, to ensure that we could adapt to the new computer system and client files. Weekly local team meetings and monthly department meetings helped us get to know our colleagues.
We went in for a couple of days last summer, although I have still not met most of my department colleagues in the flesh. Despite being a completely different experience to what I envisaged, it has undeniably still been positive overall.
Chloe Wheeldon, paralegal, Clarke Willmott (March 2020)
I began my legal career in March and within six days the lockdown began. I sat at my new desk for two days before I began to work from home.
The transition was sudden and I was worried if I would perform as well at home. I used to work from my laptop on my kitchen table, but the firm have supplied all staff with working-from-home equipment. I now have a comfortable home office set up and also do yoga classes through Zoom with colleagues.
My line manager, Sarah Jones, has been lovely and welcoming. She emails me most days and is very supportive. I have completed all my training remotely, which has been successful and have settled into the firm well.
Virtual social events such as the Christmas party over Zoom are great – my team did a virtual wine tasting event and we all had samples of wines sent out to our homes which was a treat. Despite only knowing my team virtually, they have managed to make me feel welcome and I am looking forward to eventually meeting in person.
Lyndsey Gordon-Webb, head of disease litigation, Watkins and Gunn (March 2020)
Having spent 14 years at my first and only firm I started my new role and after eight days in the office my managing partner suggested I work from home.
To say the responsibility of running a new department from home without knowing colleagues was daunting is an understatement. But I shouldn’t have worried. I’ve been working at my ‘home branch’ for nearly a year and feel like part of the furniture.
Zoom team meetings have become the norm and online social events have kept everyone in touch. There have been the unavoidable interruptions from my two-year-old, but clients are understanding and appreciate the pressures we all face juggling home and work life.
The office has implemented ‘work arounds’ to help anyone working from home which has meant that we have been able to continue to provide a high level of client service. The support from the partnership and my colleagues has been overwhelming.