Getting On Board While Off Site
As of this writing, I am in my home office (kitchen counter) in my regular at-home work uniform (yoga pants and sweatshirt), wrapping up my sixth week with EPIC Creative. As one of the most recent additions to the EPIC team, I started my journey here when EPIC was two weeks into mandatory quarantine with all staff working remotely from the comfort and safety of their homes. With so much employment-related anxiety and instability in the world right now, I am incredibly fortunate and grateful to have joined this awesome team, and I’m impressed by their remote onboarding training. Let me give you a peek inside what EPIC is doing to bring on new employees even when we can’t physically be together.
Prioritizing the Culture
Due to the Safer at Home order, there has been no physical coworker interaction during my onboarding experience, but that hasn’t stopped EPIC from bringing their emotional presence, support, and camaraderie in spades. Part of what drew me to EPIC in the first place was the value they put on culture. They do more than just say it—they demonstrate it and prioritize it. This is apparent in every facet of what EPIC does—it was obvious to me during my first correspondence with human resources and throughout the interview process, and has been reinforced every day since.
On my very first day, my manager eased a significant anxiety she may not have even known I had. Unsolicited by me, she told me she did not expect me, or anyone on her team, to be planted in front of the computer for every moment of the workday. She mentioned that it isn’t an expectation for employees when in the office, and it isn’t an expectation when working remotely. Our managers know we will need to take breaks to stay sharp, go on an occasional walk for fresh air, and need to respond to things happening in our personal lives given that the pandemic has shaken up much more than just workplaces. As a new employee, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Before this conversation, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “If something comes up and I need to step away for a few minutes, will I be perceived as lazy? Are there unspoken expectations of how I should ‘prove myself’ in this strange new environment?” As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about any of this—and my manager wasn’t the only one who proved it to me.
There has been no physical coworker interaction during my onboarding experience, but that hasn’t stopped EPIC from bringing their emotional presence, support, and camaraderie in spades.
Getting to Know the Team
Before my first day, a big part of my remote onboarding experience was already organized for me: meet & greet video calls with each executive team member and department manager. Considering I couldn’t quickly pop by anyone’s desk to say hi, having this time set aside for me was very helpful. It laid a foundation of open communication between all these new colleagues and me. It is easy to assume that everyone is busy and the last thing they want is to deal with a new person’s silly questions. This concern of mine was especially relevant since I couldn’t see anyone’s face or have any context to know if I was about to bother them at the absolute worst time. Thankfully, I didn’t need to worry about any of this—because EPIC was prepared, and every partner and department head opened their calendar without me even needing to ask. Despite the unique circumstances (and the fact that many EPIC employees are also simultaneously “managing” a team of little ones at home), every single person came to those meet & greet meetings with a reassuringly calm and compassionate perspective—and they were all genuinely excited to welcome me to the team.
Training to Succeed
Another significant portion of my onboarding was self-guided learning through the vast selection of training resources available to me (and all EPIC employees). Quite honestly, EPIC has so many optional training opportunities that it was a little daunting—but this was a good problem to have. The fact that all of their software integrations, online resource libraries, chat/virtual meeting platforms, and remote server were all set up long before COVID-19 was ever a concern is a testament to the proactive and savvy way the agency is run.
Making Real Connections
All this said, remote onboarding is not all sunshine and daisies. I have grappled with deep pangs of loneliness, as it’s a tall order to try to make new work friends through a screen. I’ve also endured waves of paranoia that I must be missing something if I have a stretch of downtime that seems too long or quiet. Despite this, I’ve found a lot of joy and solace from being able to stay connected with the broader team via Slack. EPIC has all-agency channels that people use all throughout the day to share inspiration, celebrate each other and, more often than not, simply laugh together. Weekly virtual happy hours and the occasional virtual lunch & learn webinar have given me a chance to further observe—and have fun—from a distance.
I have no doubt that the coming weeks of continued onboarding-during-quarantine will present new yet unforeseen challenges. But I’m not worried about it. In fact, I welcome those challenges because—amidst external circumstances that are dull at best and scary and overwhelming at worst—joining the EPIC team has been a real highlight for me. My new teammates have welcomed me with open arms … metaphorically speaking, of course! I can’t wait for the chance to meet them in person.