Tips for joining a digital team during lockdown (and how colleagues can help)

When I accepted my new job at Co-op Digital, I started drawing up a list of all the podcasts I’d listen to during my new morning commute. At the time when I accepted the role, ‘c-virus’ wasn’t even a word.

Fast forward a couple of months and I was meeting my team for the first time through a laptop screen.

I’m not the only lockdown newbie at Co-op Digital. I spoke to Ariadna Gonzalez-Lopez (Junior platform engineer), Elisa Pasceri (Lead product designer) and Pippa Peasland (Product manager) and drew on my own experience as Principal product manager to list the things that have been helpful to get us settled remotely. 

If you’re starting a new job remotely:  

1. Don’t wait until post-lockdown to build relationships  

We’ve been checking in with our respective line managers each day to ask questions, double check priorities and find out who to speak to about certain things. It’s helped get working relationships off to a good start which is essential right now but also means we won’t feel like we’ve left it too late when we’re finally face-to-face. Building the relationship now helps avoid that awkwardness.  


2. Plan your intros

Arrange 1-2-1 introduction meetings with the people you’ll be working with. We’ve found that some prep helps get the most out of the meeting. We’ve been asking our teammates about:  

  • their role  
  • their priorities right now  
  • their longer term goals  
  • the challenges they’re facing  
  • what we can do to help make their day-to-day easier 

We’ve been taking notes in a consistent way so we can refer back to them and ask for clarity if we need it.

Work stuff aside, it’s been important to ask our teammates about themselves. The water cooler chat can still happen remotely and it’s important that it does. Each of us felt reassured when we discovered we were working with competent people, but we also took real comfort in the less formal chats we had.  

3. Use quieter times to settle in   

As new starters, we’re eager to get up-to-speed so we can start feeling productive and self-sufficient. Everyone feels more confident when they don’t need to rely on teammates to tell them about stuff like the history of the project, how to request annual leave and the softer (but just as important) things like team etiquette.  

Reading up on these things during quieter times has been useful from a confidence point of view. Between us, we’ve asked for historical week notes and documents to read, as well as asking about suitable training courses and how we can share our experience on the Digital blog.  

 4. Be kind to yourself  

Starting a new role is hard – even in normal times. Most new people come from a place where they knew exactly how processes and people worked. The 4 of us are learning stuff that was so natural to us all over again. As newbies we talked about how anxious we were to make a good impression and how conscious we were about taking up too much of our teammates’ time.

But we realised that it just takes time – being hard on ourselves isn’t helpful.  

If you’ve (remotely) welcomed a newbie to your team:  

1. Show them the Induction Trello board 

Every new starter I spoke to said how useful they found our digital induction Trello board. Check any new starters have got access to it because working through the board will help empower them.  

2. Make sure you’re a face as well as a name  

Navigating the organisational structure is hard work – especially in big teams, and even more so when we’re all remote. Just because someone’s first week isn’t in-person, it doesn’t have to feel impersonal and a way of avoiding that is by helping new people put your face to your name. If you don’t mind turning your camera on for at least part of a meeting, please do that. Also, Slack profile pics – make sure you have one and double check it’s useful, as in, it’s a photo of your face!  

3. Offer to be an ‘induction buddy’  

When you start a new job in an office, there’s always someone nearby to chat to when you get stuck. But it’s harder when we’re remote. It’s been really settling when people on our teams have told us to “just ask if anything crops up that you’re not sure about”. Thank you.  

4. Remember the social side of work  

It takes time to build the kind of relationships where we feel comfortable bouncing around ideas as part of ‘one of the team’. In an office the non-work chit chat just happens and whether you’re contributing to it or just listening in, just being there helps newbies get a feel for team dynamics and humour and settle in.

But when we’re not physically together, relationships can’t happen as naturally, so help them along a bit. Make time for a getting-to-know-you coffee, invite new people to the established social gatherings too, like Thursday pub club.  

You do you  

We can share our experiences and package them nicely as a blog post but really, the most important thing is to find what works for you. We’re all wired differently, have different worries and prefer to interact with teammates in different ways.  

Good luck and thank you to everyone at Co-op Digital who has helped the 4 of us over the past few weeks. 

Holly Donohue  
Principal product manager  

If you’ve recently started at Co-op Digital,  join the #newbies channel on Slack.

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