Shereen Khaled, a ‘virtual’ new joiner within Qatar Foundation’s communications team, on the experiences and insights she has gained through starting a job remotely
How do we develop impressions or personal perceptions about people we interact with? Whether at work or socially, we are often spontaneous when we get introduced to new people. We don’t give a lot of thought to what influences our judgement or visions about them: is it their looks, their attitude, their tone of voice, what they express in words, or how smart they are?
There are so many factors that can shape or create our perception of others. They include our work environment – and the changes that the COVID-19 has brought to our working lives have made this even more worth exploring.
I’ve always been familiar with the process of starting a new job and experiencing the phase when I’m trying to understand the workflow in a busy workspace, the integration between different teams, and how people’s work complements that of others – as well as the feelings of anxiety that come with being a new joiner, and getting accustomed to a new milieu and new colleagues. It takes some time to feel you are truly fitting in and being productive.
But what wasn’t so familiar was the way I joined QF’s communications team in March. My first day in the role was the first day QF began remote working, meaning that I joined ‘virtually’.
Despite being doubtful about the practicality of exploring this new work environment remotely, those feelings of uncertainty started to fade sooner than I thought
I started my first morning in my new job by setting up a workspace at my home, bringing all the familiar things I might have in an office into that workstation as a trial to create my own working ambience. I did this because I felt it could help alleviate the intensity of discovering this new challenge in a virtual mode, with so many questions on my mind about how this was supposed to work.
Yet surprisingly, I felt more at ease in this situation compared to my previous experiences of starting a new job. Despite being doubtful about the practicality of exploring this new work environment remotely, those feelings of uncertainty started to fade sooner than I thought.
During those first few days in my new role at QF. I was sitting in my comfy outfit at home, having a full eye on a multi-sectored organization, observing the traffic of communication between several departments at my own pace. And I was doing all this through a digital platform that allows many teams within QF to communicate and interact without having to be in the same place. This enabled me to cut through the long phase of induction and provided me with a more comprehensive, hands-on overview of the processes and workflow. It meant I felt productive from the first day I joined.”
Our ability to interact and communicate digitally has become so natural, to the point where it is even a universal language, where everyone uses texts and emojis to perfectly reflect what they mean and how they feel
Another aspect that really captured my attention was the smooth transition of team members from the physical workplace to the virtual one. There were hardly any obstacles or disruption – in fact, quite the opposite. Meetings would start right on time and be held at the convenience of everyone, with more attendees as there were no space restraints. Tasks were shared smoothly, and even appreciation of good work has seemed more tangible in a virtual work space, embracing a much larger number of people than an office possibly could.
I believe that, in today’s world, virtual and digital solutions are now essential for many activities in our fast-paced lifestyle. Our ability to interact and communicate digitally has become so natural, to the point where it is even a universal language, where everyone uses texts and emojis to perfectly reflect what they mean and how they feel. Maybe this goes some way to explaining the easy transition to, and the familiarity of employees with, moving into a virtual clone of their offices.
I feel that virtual interaction within the workplace can help to remove perceptions about employers and colleagues
From a human standpoint, I feel that virtual interaction within the workplace can help to remove perceptions about employers and colleagues, preventing people from forming biased opinions that might be influenced by personal tendencies or external non-work-related factors. And maybe that makes it all more professional.
Now, as I’ve entered a fourth month of remote working, I realize what an interesting experience it has been for me to form an image and a personal impression about each of my colleagues despite never having physically worked a day with them. It hasn’t prevented me feeling I am part of a work community. We interact and communicate about work and non-work throughout our days. I’m mingling and mixing with, and continuing to get to know, such a large team that now feels so familiar to me – it’s just I’ve never met them in person.
And I feel this is one example of how the COVID-19 crisis can be looked at as an opportunity to reimagine and rediscover other possibilities about how we live our lives on so many levels, whether it’s work, education, or the way we experience the environment around us. It could be the opportunity we have all been hesitant about. It could actually be a gateway that leads into a better world.