Joining a new company when working remotely

Q:  I started a job in September.  I am working primarily remotely but it feels like my learning curve is steep.  I don’t feel like I know my team members or how to handle some of the most basic tasks, which others seem to be able to handle easily.  Any advice?

A:  First, let me pat you on the back.  You are raising some concerns, which are probably very common with new hires, especially those who have started working remotely for a new employer.

Sometimes when we start a new role, it is like exercising a dormant muscle.  It feels awkward and there is some soreness.  It is not fluid, or easy.  During our first few weeks at a new company in 2021, we are often setting up a new laptop, enrolling in new benefits, attending virtual meetings with new faces, etc.  Not being in an office, with face-to-face conversations, presents challenges for sure.  While you may be given a handbook or an intranet to review, employees who start remotely are missing some of the unwritten rules, which are part of the culture.  Do employees work through lunch or is a lunch hour encouraged?  Where do employees eat lunch?  Do employees socialize outside of work or do most employees disperse right after work?  Does your manager have an open door or do they require that you schedule a time to connect?  Is there one area of the office where employees hang out?

Many employers have suggested check-ins scheduled with new employees.  Sometimes it may not be your supervisor, but it may be a peer or another colleague.  It is a good idea to create a list of questions in preparation for each meeting.  Some of your questions may be general questions and some may be more job-specific.  If you are struggling with basic tasks, it may be a good idea to proactively ask your supervisor how you can “get up to speed” a bit more quickly.  Share a shortlist of tasks, which are challenging to you.  Start with the most important so that you are able to discuss the most critical tasks first, as sometimes time can run short.  Some of your questions may be more appropriate for your supervisor, while some may be more appropriate for your colleague.  If you create a list, you are sending the message that you take the role seriously and you are organized.

I know some of our clients are scheduling informal chats with employees via Zoom or Teams.  There is no formal agenda, other than fun topics like how you like to exercise, do you have a pet, where you have been on vacation, etc.  These chats are invaluable in connecting employees to others and the organization overall.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.