Home truths: what it's like to start a new job in the age of isolation

Maja Radosavljević

I’m officially two weeks into life at The Frameworks – so far, so good. Except I haven’t officially set foot in the office yet or met most of my new colleagues in person. I haven’t explored the neighbourhood to find my new lunch spots. I have no idea how tall anyone is or how they like their coffee. But I’ve waved hello to their kids and their cats, got a shoulders-up sense of their sartorial style and started to learn more about their interests based on their Zoom backgrounds du jour (Crystal Maze or the Iron Throne anyone?).

This is the slightly bizarre reality of becoming a Frameworker in these weird times. But there have been some amazing moments, too.

I’m no stranger to shifting environments. Over the past few years, I’ve bounced from in-house to agency to freelance and back again. Been seconded abroad. Worked from cafes and libraries and, of course, my trusty sofa. So when it comes to “onboarding” experiences I’ve seen them all.

But this is a new one for me. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

You get up close and personal fast
It turns out, being parachuted into this new way of working is a bit like dating in the current climate – we’ve been forced to fast-forward past all the regular milestones and get really intimate, really quickly. Things that would have taken weeks or months to build up to in the office have already happened – as video conferencing means you can’t help but invite everyone in. Now that we’ve seen the insides of each other’s kitchens, bedrooms and garages, it’s kind of hard to keep our distance. In some ways, I already feel like I’ve been here forever.

You don’t have to be face-to-face to be present
We’re fortunate enough to have great social-collaboration tools that make it easier than ever to stay visible and connected when we need it most. Over the past couple of weeks, Frameworkers have really leaned into that. From daily stand-ups with the whole company through to informal chats with business partners, I’ve been listened to and welcomed as a valued member of the team since day one, despite being just another face on the laptop screen.

In fact, my new colleagues have gone out of their way to make time for me. They even couriered my laptop, headset and new stationery over to me into a beautiful floral tote for that extra personal touch. I’m all set from a practical and emotional perspective to hit the ground running.

There’s no room for hierarchy
This moment in history is proving to be a great leveller. For once, we’re all on the same page, aiming for the same goal, and there’s no room to be precious. Yes, this democratic sentiment may be symptomatic of our time – but it’s also 100% reflected in The Frameworks’ culture. Everyone is valued and respected; there’s no fighting for airtime.

In this time of radical transparency, it’s easier than ever to call bullshit on questionable working practices. We’re seeing so many employers say one thing, then treat their employees completely differently. I’m pleased to say there’s been no hint of that here so far – and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

...or standing still
It’s important to be proactive and get stuck in – especially when you’re new and “remote”. There’s no time to observe and glean bits of information (whether through a quick creative powwow to nail an idea or a coffee break to find out that your colleague shares your love of sewing) so you need to step up and ask the question. Getting the answers you need to take a project to the next level is essential for keeping things moving in the right direction. Thankfully, I think we’re all adjusting to social distancing, so a rapid-fire chat via our Slack channel or a quick Zoom call feels like a welcome interaction with someone outside your core isolation unit.

Working from home doesn’t have to be complicated
Being open, collaborative and agile is part of the DNA at The Frameworks. This isn’t just good for business; it means that this rather large adjustment to the everyday realities of work feels pretty streamlined. The business has long recognised that employees don’t have to be present in the company headquarters five days a week to create brilliant work and be an integral part of the team. This approach benefits us all and means that this new way of working is more of a pivot than a giant leap.

Frameworkers are responsive problem-solvers
At a time when almost nothing is certain, I’m fortunate enough to have landed in a team of great creative brains and problem solvers, which is definitely something that attracted me to The Frameworks in the first place. Everyone is quick to respond to my queries (something that, as a new team member, I’m incredibly grateful for) and seems to be navigating the unknown well.

A sense of humour is a prerequisite
A little laugh goes a long way. Our #goodnews Slack channel and hilarious Friday challenges (Google your name + glamour shot, I dare you) are keeping team spirit and morale high – which is essential, given how much we all collaborate on various projects. Developing in-jokes when you’re “out of office” might seem a bit counterintuitive, but we’re all learning new things.

There’s a filter for that
Sure, we’re enjoying the way Zoom has revealed a more human aspect of our working lives, but when it all feels a bit too real, I’ve been informed there is such a thing as a Zoom beauty filter. I’m also fully grateful to my fellow Frameworkers for showing up as masters of real talk and sharing the most relevant information when I need it most.

So, despite the minor adjustments that come with starting any new job, I feel both incredibly lucky and incredibly grateful to be part of a community that’s able to work from home during these turbulent times. To have landed somewhere that does it quite so well is an added bonus. I look forward to discovering more about “business as usual” at The Frameworks – whatever that may look like in the coming days, weeks and months. I suspect the real adjusting will happen once we’re all back in the office. ­­

And by the way, we’re still hiring.