Starting A New Job, But On Zoom!

It’s safe to say that things have changed dramatically for most people in just three weeks. For me, they’ve changed even more.

It was only 12 days ago that I began my first week at Crenshaw Communications, a technology PR agency in Manhattan. I was really looking forward to starting my new job, getting to know everyone, and joining the company’s Thursday happy hours.

For three glorious days I commuted to the office. Around the third day I noticed my fellow commuters were taking precautions — wearing masks, gloves, and using hand sanitizer more often than usual. In the office, various client and tech industry events were being canceled; in fact, there was a cancellation nearly every day. Wednesday night, after Tom Hanks announced he had tested positive for the virus and the NBA cancelled the rest of their season, I wondered if I should ask to work from home.

I felt a little uncomfortable about the idea, even though the company has a very generous work-from-home policy. But I needn’t have worried; by the next day, nearly everyone was working remotely. With our IT provider’s help, the agency upgraded our remote desktop application setup, and it was quickly decided that we would do so indefinitely.

A crash course in working remotely 

Despite the liberal WFH policy in the pre-pandemic days, I had planned on coming into the office for a while to become acclimated and have a full grasp on what was needed when I later chose to work from home. I’ve never worked remotely before and I had only spent three days in the office. I was worried about not being able to access necessary items, afraid of potentially doing something incorrectly, and wondering how productive I would be. Communication was a concern— what if I got stuck on something and it was more difficult to explain the problem remotely versus in-person?

To my surprise, I fell into the swing of things rather quickly. Luckily, we use Google Documents for everything, so I’m able to access my Outlook account via my home computer and mobile, and Slack has been helpful in allowing me to chat with coworkers throughout the day to ask questions. I always know what’s going on in real time on our different channels. Our daily check-ins on Zoom are also helping me remember everyone’s name and to put a face to the voices I hear on daily calls. I’ve read countless articles on how to successfully work from home and I’ve followed most of the suggestions — like, having a routine and creating a to-do list for tasks. Some also recommend dressing as though you’re heading to the office and going outside, but due to recent events, I’ve opted out of that one!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been working more from the desk in my living room than the one in my new office and I’ve seen my coworkers through a screen more than in person. Although my start at Crenshaw didn’t go as planned, I feel lucky that I’m able to have a job with the ability to work remotely — I just didn’t foresee the possibility of having to do it indefinitely. I guess those Thursday happy hours will have to be over Zoom for the time being. Cheers!

Zooming Into Coworkers’ Lives Is Revealing

In two short weeks our world has been turned upside down. And yet, even this crisis offers a silver lining, or maybe a new perspective. It’s because of Zoom.

Remote conferencing is hardly a new concept. Thanks to technology, meetings have been held business-to-business across states, and yes, oceans, now for quite some time. They usually originate in conference rooms, assembled with one’s team, all seated together. But work in the time of coronavirus cannot allow for any on-site seating – not even six feet apart.

As COVID-19 rages, Zoom’s user-friendly platform has fast become the go-to experience for a sense of normalcy. But I ask, how normal is it to see inside your boss and co-workers’ homes? What about that of a political pundit or host on national TV? And, here’s the bigger question. Do we even want to?

While social media has already made our lives seemingly accessible, Zoom conferences and interviews now feel reminiscent of the more relaxed workplace, symbolized by what was once known as Casual Friday. A relaxed dress-code in businesses made the workplace feel oddly familiar on days men would forgo a tie and women dressed down.

But if every day now is Social and Casual, is there an added allure when we get to Zoom in?

Everything You Did – and Didn’t – Want to Know During COVID19

Here, in no particular order, are things I have seen these last handful of days:

My colleagues’ adorable dogs

A teammate in her pajamas

The really good sandwich in my manager’s kitchen

Someone’s dad

Someone’s spouse

Someone’s roommate

French doors

Kelly Ripa when she does her own hair and makeup

Debi Mazar’s peacock-blue wall

The orange bath towel belonging to a rabbi at my temple

And here are the things I’ve noticed are amplified:

The commitment of each of my colleagues

The organizational skills that enable our company to run remotely

Personal responsibility to do the best for one’s clients

Camaraderie

An appreciation for working

The affection behind our team’s teasing

Pride

Our fundamental need to connect

How we sense we’re to be forever changed, but in ways don’t yet know

I don’t mean to cut this short, but we have a Zoom check-in meeting in five minutes, and I need to put on some lipstick and move my office from the bed to the couch. You don’t think I want everyone seeing me in my…. TMI, I know.

Stay safe! Be strong.