Starting a new role during the pandemic – Sarah Millward’s experience

16th March – First Day
24th March – CM spoke to Sarah and advised her to go home and wait for a phone call to start again.
Was able to do online mandatory training from personal laptop
2nd April – Allocated and picked up laptop so properly able to work from home.

How was the first week working in the office?
Eased into work. Understandably, the original training plan was disrupted as Nicki (Sarah’s line manager and trainer), had moved to 50% working from home and a lot of attention was drawn to the initial stages of the pandemic; trying to plan accordingly, plus any general anxieties people had about the situation.  We were able to do some training however it was a little more difficult due to social distancing.

Despite the difficulties and anxieties as we approached lockdown, her first week was a really positive experience.  Sarah was introduced to the entire team, who were all really welcoming and friendly.  Everyone took time to stop and have a conversation to introduce themselves and get to know her on a personal basis.  Sarah also appreciated the fact that many people approached her to check she was okay and offer any support when needed making her feel immediately part of a lovely team and positive about her move to MCT Finance. 

Sarah really enjoyed the brief time there, as the atmosphere was generally very light hearted and fun.

How was working from home in the first month?
Really hard to begin with.  Sarah has two children aged 1 and 3.  Her husband is also a key worker, working for the police so there was no one at home to be able to support with childcare and given their ages, they need constant care and attention.  And as Sarah was learning a new role, with little finance background, so was being trained via skype calls, often with children demanding attention, crying or wanting to play etc.  Together, Sarah and I worked flexibly to accommodate training, trying to work around the children’s routine and eventually we were able to come up with a pattern that worked.  But in the interim there was a period Sarah found it difficult to allocate substantive periods of time to hold her focus for completing new pieces of work whilst her training was fresh in her mind. For example after completing training and Sarah was left to complete work independently the children would demand attention making it hard to give tasks her full attention and having to break up the tasks was sometime more confusing than helpful during throughout the training period.
Although there was no expectation or pressure from her team or managers, Sarah worked evenings and weekends to combat the issue, opening her laptop at any possible moment to catch up and make herself more familiar with her role so that she was better able to support the team. Although this had an impact on work life balance initially, being able to train and work when childcare support was available proved more productive and beneficial in gaining her skills, confidence and ability.  Helping Sarah to be in the position she is at now, more confident and able to work independently with a better work life balance.

What has been the Hardest Aspect?
Sarah has been very conscious that she is on a 12 month fixed term contract and therefore has a limited period to learn and gain new skills, as well as make an impression with colleagues. Although this would have been an anxiety regardless of the circumstances, Sarah feels working from home it is harder to make her presence known and stand out.  She has done her best to reach out to other members of the team to make the impression but feels there is still a gap there which she is continuously working towards closing.

What has been the best aspect?
Although Sarah mentioned she feels there is a gap between herself and other members of the team she has very much enjoyed getting to know the team.  Evident from the short period of time in the office plus the skype meetings she attends with the Corporate FM Team and Ops desk team, there is an obvious sense of support and warmth throughout.  Getting to know everyone has been a real pleasure and she has felt supported throughout.  So although there is a gap Sarah is branching out to other members on the team to network and broaden her working relationships.

As time has progressed Sarah has been able to establish a routine and is more confident in her role and working more independently, so feeling more relaxed and enjoying her role.

Did Sarah feel Supported?
Yes. The team have been very supportive and appreciative of her circumstances.  They have all been really friendly, helpful and accommodated her to work flexibly and Nicki has adjusted her working hours to accommodate Sarah with Training etc.

How do you feel about working from home going forward?
Sarah see’s pros and cons to working from home in the future. Benefits of working from home include:

  • Saving time on travel, making the mornings more relaxed
  • More time spent with children – most prominently the opportunity to be able to do the school runs.
  • Sarah thinks as schools return, work will be easier and more productive.

However, some negatives are:

  • Unfinished house hold chores can be distracting
  • Lacks interaction with colleagues and the ability to establish a presence as a new starter

Either way, Sarah feels confident that she will be able to do well in her role.

Is there anything we could have done better?
Not at all, Sarah feels everyone have been very welcoming, supportive and accommodating.  Sarah recognised that managers have always been concerned about hers and others wellbeing and was really impressed.  She feels like this is a nice place to work.  

Going forward is there anything we do to help?
Sarah feels she still needs some training and experience before she feels 100% confident in her role, but has all the resources and support required and that her confidence will grow with time.