It was March when the Prime Minister laid down the most significant restrictions on British people in living memory. Businesses closed. I learned the word furlough. Zoom became a verb. And we were told we “must stay at home” for the first time.

Since then, it has been quite a ride. Juggling home-schooling for two children when running a business. Suddenly being thrown into a shared office with my husband and children. Not being able to visit friends and relatives, and all the while trying to move to a new house.

Positively, the business has remained strong with people continuing to rely on their accountant, but the last 12 months must go down as one of the toughest so here are five of the things I’ve learned so far:

Be kind
After speaking to people looking for a new career move, it’s clear that some enjoy lockdown, but many find it challenging. I think after so much enforced isolation, people simply want what is best for themselves and their families.

While we don’t have to agree with each other, or even understand everyone’s perspective, I think we need to try to at least listen and respond with compassion.

Furlough, redundancy, working from home, being scared to work in the office, unable to see family, losing someone close; while we are all going through the same pandemic, we are not going through it in the same way. Our experiences are unique, so we need to keep that in mind and try to be kinder.

We’re more resilient than we think
I was about to move to a new house in March. Eight months, two moves, a summer in a holiday let locked down with two children a dog later, and we finally arrived at our (now forever) home.

It is amazing what you can get through if you have a good enough reason and I don’t think any of us should under-estimate the stress the last year has placed upon us but despite that I see people making the most of the situation in the most ingenious ways every day on social media and I believe we will continue to do so until things finally return to ‘normal’.

We all need a positive mindset
As part of my role I talk, reassure, and offer support to people moving job daily. In such a difficult time, finding ways to maintain a positive mindset has never been more important. It keeps people motivated, allows them to remain productive when working at home, and stimulates self-esteem resulting in a happier outlook.

It’s up to each individual to find their way of releasing stress and keeping positive, so I can’t speak for anyone else, but I find exercise and fresh air when walking my dog is a real tonic.

Video Interviews aren’t that bad
I’m still not sure video calls will ever truly replace face-to-face meetings in recruitment but, as Zoom and Microsoft Teams take over the business world, there have been some strong benefits from the new way of working.
Not least is the convenience, but there has also been an important need for people to develop keen listening skills; not to mention the ability to unmute themselves!

We are better together
Separation is not the way I like to live. I miss personal interaction (not to mention shopping and lying on a beach in the sun somewhere hot!). When we get out of this, I plan to make more time to spend with family and those who matter most.

And as things continue to change quickly, I have learned to make the most of the moment, taking opportunities to see friends whenever they arise.

There are, of course, many other valuable lessons I have learned, including the importance of showing gratitude, to be thankful for simple pleasures, and to be prepared for anything – including the return of business as usual soon, I hope.

Starting a new job is exciting, but it can also be scary and sometimes a little confusing at the same time – and that’s before you add a global pandemic and the prospect of working from home.

With any new starter, the first few days are crucial to their success and, given how difficult the recruitment process is right now, it would be a major disappointment for everyone concerned if a relationship fell apart because someone struggled to settle in.

Be prepared

Whatever you do, don’t wait until someone’s first day before you start to make them feel at home.

Help with their transition by keeping in touch throughout their notice period. Let them know how much you are looking forward to them joining your team and that, even in these uncertain times, their job is secure.

Make sure you have basic housekeeping in place a week before the start date. This includes log-ins, a computer for remote-working and checking that they have an adequate space to operate effectively at home.

A positive day one is vital to building a strong, long-term relationship, so you need to be prepared and have a welcome plan in place, even if it is virtual.

Make people feel at ease

Working distantly means people won’t get the chance to meet colleagues in person, nor will they be able to get a feel for the dynamics and culture of the office environment. Don’t underestimate the impact this can have. 

Integrating into a new team will be much harder than usual, so you must make sure people know that being out of their comfort zone is ok. A lot of people are out of their comfort zone right now.

You need to make sure they know someone is there to help them with whatever they need, and you mustn’t allow them to put too much pressure on themselves. 

There is a lot to take on board and learn in a new job but, for the vast majority of people’s time, they will be on their own and this may be difficult to adapt to at first.

Communicate clearly

No one can succeed in a job if they don’t know what success looks like so make a point of letting your new starter know exactly what you – and the wider business – expect of them.

In the beginning, this could be as simple as the hours they need to work each day and the flexibility you can provide. The more flexibility you can offer right now, the better, especially if they have children who need support with home-schooling while they work full-time. 

Start by talking about daily goals and then expand outward over time, but be prepared to offer support whenever it is needed. 

If the opportunity arises, it may be worth considering engaging your recruit in a project where they can support some of their new colleagues to give them a chance to integrate and also show people what they can do.

Impress on the first day

Even though your new employee is not in the office, invite them to start a little later than usual on their first day so you can make sure the rest of the team are aware they are joining and you can get your urgent work out of the way so you can dedicate time to support them.

Set up a series of calls to introduce them to as many people as you can, and assign a ‘buddy’ who can check in with them throughout the initial days and weeks. 

On their first morning, make sure HR reach out to support the induction process and consider how you can demonstrate the businesses culture to someone who is working from home, as the sooner they fit culturally and align with the vision of the business, the better it will be.

There is a lot to think about but, in my experience, it is often the little things that make the biggest difference for new starters, so make sure you let people know you care.

Starting a new job during lockdown will not be as easy as it would usually be, but with regular two-way communication and plenty of support, there is no reason why you can’t make it a huge success.