18 June 2020

It's daunting and exciting starting a new job at the best of times. But it is especially difficult if just as you start, the country goes into lockdown and you are not able to meet key people, sit with people to learn new systems, and start to develop relationships with your new team. Mohammed Rahman, a new People Information Analyst, faced this prospect when he started working for ELFT on 27 May. Plus becoming a father! Below we hear from Mohammed and Joanna Kujoth, his manager, about what they have learned along the way that could benefit others.

Welcome to ELFT. Did you work for an NHS organisation previously? Yes.
How did you feel starting a new job without being able to come to the office and meet colleagues? It wasn’t too bad as I spoke to and met some colleagues during interview and later I spoke to others via telephone and email. Also, just before lockdown, I visited the Trust to show my identification evidence and my manager gave me a tour. Thanks to all these interactions, it already felt like I was part of the team.
How did you get on ELFT systems and get the equipment you needed? My manager set up the system and made all the requests promptly. The equipment was given to me by my manager (in a park!) on my first day, staying two metres apart. 
What has had to change at home to allow you to have workspace? Layout to create space and furniture is still pending.  I have just become a father so it has been a period of adjustment! As a new parent being in lockdown, working from home is a great advantage. It has given me the opportunity to be around my newborn and interact more. I'm also able to support when needed.

< Mohammed Rahman
What has helped you to settle in? Video interactions generally with the team and having a supportive manager.
What has been difficult about starting during the lockdown? Generally workwise, it was fairly good as the department had already invested in agile working.
What are you most looking forward to about eventually coming into the workplace? Meeting face-to-face I guess, and having social interactions. However if lockdown restriction are lifted, this can be achieved in any location given people are happy to risk travelling.
What would be your top tip to people starting during this period? Communicate with the team and your manager. Highlight any help that you think you need. Anything that you find difficult, address it. Just say. All of this is new and sometimes all the answers have not been thought of in advance.

< Joanna Kujoth, People Information Manager

What were the challenges in having a new staff member join at this time? I think the main challenge was a fear of how best to support a new starter when we were not in the office. Mohammed came from different trust and this role is new to him so I wanted to ensure I did the best to help him settle in. We had to postpone his start date until we knew what the next steps during lockdown were to be. I also had to arrange his IT equipment, i-Connect, Office 365 licence, and access to a shared mailbox, shared drives etc. which took longer due to other staff members working from home.
As mentioned before, this is new role for Mohammed which involves lots of learning. This has to now be done virtually via screen sharing, Teams and telephone. So the whole induction into the role will take much longer and could be perceived as ‘boring’. Mohammed has started by doing ‘easier’ tasks - which can discourage some staff. This potentially had an impact on existing staff too as their workload was greater while they undertook these tasks until Mohammed could fully take over.

What have been the advantages? Knowing that remote working is possible and learning how to ‘trust’ staff.
How have you tried to make Mohammed feel welcomed? We both kept in touch from when Mohammed was originally supposed to start and kept updating each other. Once we confirmed the start date, I arranged to meet him in a nearby park (social distancing of course). We had a good chat and checked that the IT equipment was working. I sent emails to the team to introduce Mohammed and welcome him. We have a bi-weekly team 'huddle' which Mohammed joined, and a weekly People Information Team catch up via Teams. This is a great way to keep in touch with the team and see each other's faces. Other team members in the People Information Team offered to teach Mohammed different aspects of his role, which makes it easier for me and lets them bond.
What have you learnt that would be useful to other managers employing new starts? I didn’t realise how many things need to be requested via the IT portal. Some take more than a week to be completedso it's important to start this process early. Communication is the key. Talk to the staff member, listen to their ‘fears’ and explain how their induction will look. You need to be patient because this is a new process for everyone.
Top tips? Once again communication and keeping in touch. Being open and clear with them about what to expect and just seeing what we can do to make their start in ELFT as smooth as possible.