Starting a new job can be stressful at the best of times. You are anxious about fitting in. You are worried you might not live up to expectations. And, if you’re switching fields, you’re scared about learning new skills without any training. 

Now imagine starting a new job remotely. With the coronavirus scare pushing companies across the world to adopt working from home, many people are joining new jobs virtually—and the pressure is that much higher. 

You feel even more stressed about having to prove yourself. There is no office orientation. You don’t meet your new colleagues face-to-face. You’re just flung into a Zoom meeting and, that’s it, you’re expected to hit the ground running. 

We, at Harappa, have onboarded six people since the lockdown began—and they have all started work remotely. How did they navigate their new jobs working from their dining tables? Or bedrooms? How did it feel not to meet their new colleagues in-person? How did they make connections with their co-workers starting a new job remotely?

Three new Harappans share their stories of moving into a new job virtually in these extraordinary times. They tell us about the thrills, the trepidation, the joy, and the jitters—in other words, the roller-coaster of emotions they’ve been through in the past few weeks.

We begin our three-part series with Tanvi Khemani who joined the Curriculum team smack dab in the middle of the lockdown. Read on to find out how she became a #HarappanAtHome. 

My first day at Harappa was unlike anything I could have imagined. I attended my first ever meeting with my new colleagues and manager in my pyjamas.

My parents interrupted me several times while I read and signed my contract. And my dog was with me the whole time.

This is what happens, I realized belatedly that evening, when you begin a new job in a different city during a lockdown amid a pandemic.

You’re excited and anxious and have a million questions, but all your interactions with your colleagues are mediated by screens and a fluctuating Wi-Fi connection.

You try to hit the ground running, but everything is new to you—the people, the work, the processes, the zillion acronyms used by your colleagues.

Out of your 80-odd new coworkers, only the three who have directly interacted with you before you joined know that you, employee number 83, actually exist.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to stress about joining smoothly and making myself useful from day one. It turned out that I wasn’t the first new joinee at Harappa to be starting remotely during the work-from-home period.

And I soon realized that Harappa knew exactly what to do with me. I was immediately assigned a mentor who was a senior from my team. She would make it a point to explain things to me during meetings, as well as on one-on-one check-in calls.

Since my colleagues had already been working from home for a few days before I joined, they had created systems of communication and work allocation to keep everything on track.I benefited greatly from this. I read daily work schedules and email threads, and watched internal team presentations and the rapidly evolving task notation list.

This was how I began to understand who my new colleagues were, what they did, which projects the team was working on, and how it all came together.

I had joined the Curriculum Team as a Curriculum Specialist. My team is the one that conceptualizes, creates, and delivers the Harappa curriculum. This includes the courses on the Harappa Habits, and it also includes other courses, webinars, podcasts, and blogs.

In a team of 18, this kind of work means lots of collaboration within the team and with other teams. There is a lot of back and forth as new ideas become new deliverables, and most importantly, the attention to detail needed is incredible. Every new word written or recorded needs to be consistent with everything else that has already been produced.

Sometime during my first day, it suddenly hit me: Harappa is all about building good habits for the workplace. What better time to polish my thinking, communication, and collaboration skills, than now, when everything was new?

So I decided to focus on three things during my first few days at Harappa.

First, showing up for all the meetings on time and taking copious notes on everything anyone in my team discussed, including the work that wasn’t assigned to me.

Second, re-reading and reading between the lines of all written correspondence (including Zoom chat boxes and WhatsApp group banter) to get a sense of the work culture, communication style, and vibe of my team.

And third, and most important, asking questions and checking in regularly with my reporting manager and mentor to make sure the three of us knew what I was supposed to do each day.

And it actually worked!

I was able to take ownership of the project assigned to me without feeling lost. I also got a lot of insight into the long-term goals and targets of the team, which kept me excited for the time I finally get to move to Delhi and join the office when the lockdown lifts.

I tentatively began joining in the team banter and chit chat before meetings and during the weekly chai party. The best part was developing a rapport with my mentor, who I’ve never met, but who I now feel I’ve known for a long time.

As I write this, the authorities are deliberating on whether to extend the lockdown. I would have been anxious to know how long this will last, and for it to get over quickly so that I can begin my new job in person, the normal way.

But now I say: Bring it on. I’m a Harappan at home.

[Read part 2 here and part 3 here]

Explore topics and skills such as Speaking SkillsOratory SkillsVerbal CommunicationNonverbal Communication, and the Types of Communication from our Harappa Diaries blog section and communicate information effectively.

Tanvi Khemani is Specialist, Curriculum, at Harappa Education. She is a postgraduate in Media and Cultural Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and enjoys eating street side chaat and writing fiction.

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