Starting a new job remotely may evoke many kinds of feelings, even negative ones. On the other hand, it still offers a positive opportunity to learn new skills and develop one's employee skills.
A different start
The start of my trainee period at VTT has been quite exceptional. I started in my new job late in spring. Like many others, on my first day I just visited the office to get my work equipment, and after that I have been working remotely almost all the time, with only a few exceptions. Before this, I had hardly any earlier experience of remote work.
Starting a new job remotely has been an interesting experience. My own team has made the practical arrangements in an exemplary manner, and the remote induction to work was also performed excellently, so in this respect everything has gone well. Of course, there are also negative aspects associated with remote work. For me, the most significant of them has been the fact that you do not get to know your colleagues as easily and naturally as you would under normal circumstances.
However, over the three months I have been working remotely, I have also noticed that remote work can be educational. Starting a new job remotely has taught me and enabled me to develop the kind of skills that will certainly benefit me later on my working career, including in a traditional office environment.
What has starting a new job remotely taught me?
Adaptability. Familiarizing oneself with a new job, getting to know new people and getting used to remote work all at the same time requires getting out of your comfort zone. Particularly for a person like me, who had no earlier experience of remote work, starting to work remotely required taking a new attitude.
To my great pleasure, my concentration also seems to have improved with working remotely. For some people, it is naturally easier to concentrate on their work in the peace of their own home. I am one of the people who feel quite the opposite, and, at first, focusing on work at home felt like a real challenge. Now, when working at home has been the only option, my concentration has improved, which is, of course, a very positive thing. I hope that this will also help me enhance my work performance under normal office conditions.
Naturally, my remote communication skills have also significantly improved during spring. Communicating by e-mail, in Microsoft Teams or on Skype is different compared to when you are communicating with someone face to face. Electronic communication increases the amount of misunderstanding in many ways. It was only yesterday, when I was going through some updates to existing guidelines with my supervisor, that I came to think that, at times, communication via Teams also requires a great deal of creativity and patience.
Some matters would be so much easier to process face to face in the same room, examining the same papers. Furthermore, when working remotely, you must be more active and take more initiative in getting to know your colleagues than under normal conditions. When working remotely, the threshold for asking help or just chit-chatting with people you do not know at all is higher. This may feel frustrating, but, on the other hand, it gives you an opportunity to enhance your social skills.
Practical experience of remote work can be beneficial in the future
Personally, my experience of remote work may benefit me in the future also with a view to my subject matter expertise. I work in the HR legal team and I wish to continue working with labour law in the future. We can predict that the amount of remote work will increase, which means that labour relations lawyers will work more and more often with matters and situations related to remote work. I believe that my own experience of the reality of remote work may be of use in such matters as preparing legislation, collective agreements or local agreements concerning remote work. On the other hand, I also hope that, in conflict situations, I would be better equipped to understand the remote employee's views than before.
The author is a law student at the University of Helsinki. She works as a trainee in the VTT's HR legal team.