When Josefina Jarosova started her first-ever full-time job at the Adecco Group, she never imagined she would be spending so much time working from home.
Jarosova, a Junior Video Producer on the Corporate Communication Team based in Prague, started her position in June 2020, in the middle of a European lockdown that was just gradually starting to ease with the onset of warmer temperatures.
Jarosova represents an entire generation of employees that are missing out on a whole other office environment education. Since her virtual onboarding, she has only visited the office a handful of times.
Before joining, “I bought all of these office-appropriate clothes that I have just never worn,” the Czech-American said, looking back at her first months. “That’s a bit of a bummer.”
During the pandemic, the new world of order opened up a range of flexible working arrangements including countless innovations for employees across the globe. Gen Z, many of whom are now entering the workforce, are uniquely equipped to succeed in a primarily digital world. But what does it mean when so many new workers are logging into Teams instead of commuting on the train to work on a regular basis?
The Value of an “Office Education”
Most employees traditionally started their first day on the job with a tour of the office, a meeting with their HR representatives, some type of meet-and-greet with their new colleagues, maybe even a quick lunch with their new manager. Working in a physical office has its own benefits, particularly for younger workers or those new to a company who quickly pick up new skills relating to negotiation, time management, communication, professionalism, corporate culture and more.
Working in a physical office also allows workers to meet their managers and colleagues face-to-face and connect with them on a different level. During the pandemic, that social environment shifted online to video calls and back-and-forth chats.
“I suppose you could say that since this is my first corporate job, I’ve never experienced that corporate office environment, so I don’t exactly even know what I’m potentially missing out on,” Jarosova said.
Jarosova has had to make some changes to adapt to a flexible working set-up, including weekly one-hour-long one-on-one meetings with her line manager. Still, she can’t help but feel like the office experience might be a nice change, especially since she lives alone.
“From a social standpoint, I do feel like it’s a shame that I haven’t been able to make in person office ‘work friends’ or have the classic water cooler gossip exchanges,” she said in an interview. “But that isn’t to say that I don’t feel like I’ve not made some great connections within the team - they’re just virtual.”
It’s not just a lack of face-to-face interactions. Jarosova’s position was supposed to include 50% travel, which has been impossible to date.
Surveys have shown remote work and connections with colleagues don’t always translate well. Nearly 60% of people surveyed by Microsoft felt less connected to their colleagues since switching to a remote work or home office set-up. In China, that number is much closer to 70%.
Jarosova isn’t the only one managing a new career in the middle of a pandemic. Loren Shields, Head of Marketing for Modis North America, joined the Adecco Group in February 2021. Her onboarding process, like so many others around the globe, was entirely virtual – and she has never visited the office to date. Likewise, she has yet to meet her colleagues in person.
“There are significant benefits to spending time with colleagues in their work environment to both develop relationships and gain a fuller perspective of operations and opportunities for partnership,” Shields said in an interview. “I do look forward to meeting my colleagues in person soon.”
And the virtual work environment has its upsides. With just a few clicks, Shields said, she can reach people across the Adecco Group ecosystem in real time over Teams.
“Work from home has provided a different, but not a lesser, integration into the company,” Shields said. “Connecting with colleagues via Teams both individually and during group meeting has allowed me to get to know them and experience the company culture in uniquely beneficial ways.”
After more than a year working from home, though, new and longer-serving employees alike will return to the office – if only for parts of the week -- feeling different than when they left.
A New Approach
Adapting has been a key part of the pandemic-imposed work-from-home situation for so many. Anna Cocca, who works in the Adecco Group SVP HR Corporate Functions with a focus on the Finance and GPL functions, started her new position at the beginning of 2021. Apart from her manager, CHRO at the Adecco Group, Gordana Landen, Cocca has never met any of her co-workers in person.
One of the challenges has been learning to adapt to the culture of the company from her home office. The challenge has led her to try new techniques to adapt to her environment and meet her new colleagues, such as through leadership development workshops on Teams.
When the time comes to return to the office, Cocca said, she expects to face a steep learning curve.
“For the generation that has had a virtual onboarding, we will have another learning curve when we start working at the office –we will probably feel like a newbie again,” Cocca said. “Apart from that, it just feels like the new normal for now.”
Jarosova says this new approach to working suits her. The junior video producer says the shift to remote work hasn’t put her at a disadvantage at all.
“If anything, it has challenged me in new ways, given me time to observe from the sidelines and just get very comfortable with my knowledge of the organization which is very valuable,” Jarosova said. “I have had the chance to really showcase my value to the team and it has been recognized and well received so overall I have had a very good experience.”
Tips for Better Integration in a Virtual World
Starting a new career in a flexible, work-from-home era can certainly have its challenges. But, Shields said new hires starting jobs during this time also have the flexibility to embrace a unique, flexible world of working.
“Those who begin their careers in this new work dynamic are getting the best of two worlds, as well as the benefit of choosing what works best for them and the way that they work best,” Shields said. “They will have the ability to work remotely with the option to build careers that are not constrained by where they live. But they will also have the flexibility to work from an office if that is the ideal environment for them.”
Onboarding new employees during the pandemic? Here are some best practices and recommendations for onboarding new remote team members, from HR professionals at the Adecco Group:
- Virtual Onboarding: Consider setting up more structured and specific guidance around virtual onboarding. At The Adecco Group, we created a virtual onboarding elearning so that everyone coming into our organization from 1st July 2020 onwards would have a good understanding of who we are, our values, our strategy, our leadership teams, and more. It helps provide the new joiner with that sense of belonging to something whilst being in a virtual space.
- Be clear on goals and deliverables: A 30, 60, and 90 day plan is a great way to set expectations. Start the first few weeks with clear tasks.
- One-on-one meetings: Especially when working remotely, set up frequent one-to-one and team touch points. This will help make sure communication flows, challenges are flagged, and the team’s wellbeing is checked on.
- A buddy system: Set up a system where you can connect a new joiner with a buddy who can support them with all the questions they may have around navigating a new environment.
- FAQ Documents: FAQ documents can help new team members understand how to utilize the virtual tools around them. For example: Teams support, Microsoft analytics to manage their time, using chat versus emails to support with ongoing collaboration and connectivity, and more. In addition, links to IT security guidance and other resources can also help.