Starting a new job is always a little nerve-racking. Your role might be a mystery, you’re meeting new colleagues and managers, and you’re having to get used to a new workplace dynamic — all of which can understandably cause stress. But getting stuck into a new role can be particularly tricky amidst the complexities and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many new starters, the office has been replaced with home-working and on-the-job training is being carried out online. People are now meeting their coworkers over Slack and Zoom, rather than the communal kitchen. And although few workers will miss commuting, getting used to a new role remotely can come with a plethora of challenges.
“Starting a new job is exciting and at the same time anxiety provoking,” says Yuko Nippoda, psychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
“People might wonder if they are up for the demands of a job, if they can get along with their new bosses and colleagues, or if the work environment would be suitable for them. During the pandemic, there have been lots of changes in working conditions and job-seekers have to make sure that the workplace has the appropriate safety protocols in place.”
Also, many places still request that workers mix working in the office with working from home. Some people would need to use public transport and might worry that the commute is not safe enough, which can cause additional anxiety.
“There are many uncertain elements in the environment,” says Nippoda. “These are the contributing factors that make people feel anxious upon starting a new job during the pandemic.”
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Starting a new job remotely can also mean missing out on the fun aspects of meeting new colleagues. New starters might be taken out for drinks or lunch to meet everyone, which can help them feel less isolated. So what can you do if you feel nervous?
“Before starting a new job, it is vital to discuss the working conditions fully with the employer, so that they can reduce any elements that could cause anxiety,” says Nippoda. “Safety is the top priority when starting a new job during the pandemic. If the conditions differ from those that were briefed before starting the job, the discrepancy needs to be highlighted.”
Good communication is also crucial. “If workers wish to avoid crowded public transport, for example, they can ask the boss if they could arrive at the office earlier or later. Negotiation of this kind can help employees stay calm. It can also be helpful to make sure that HR has a good support system in place.”
It’s also important to prepare before starting a new job. Take some time beforehand to go over the job description for your new role and remind yourself of your responsibilities. That way you’ll know what to expect and things will seem a little less daunting.
In addition, think about what made you want the job and what helped you land it in the first place. If you are feeling insecure, remember that the employer chose and hired you for a reason.
Although new job anxiety can be all-consuming, you won’t be new forever. Gradually, you will become used to your new job, employers and peers, and settle into a routine. Speak to friends and family about how you feel, as they may be able to help put your worries into perspective and provide some reassurance.
And remember, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and a little lost in a new working environment. You may feel pressured to excel at everything straight away, but your manager and co-workers will expect you to be unsure of things at this stage. It’s important to ask questions and learn from any mistakes you make.
“Newcomers to the workplace are vulnerable, particularly during the pandemic. It is very important for employers to bear this in mind,” says Nippoda. “It would be useful to ask new starters regularly how they find the working conditions and the environment, and to keep an eye on their needs.
“Nethertheless, employers should pay attention to the safety protocol and demonstrate that they are open to negotiation, so that new starters can feel that the company is supportive.”