Wooden desk against a wall that has a world map hanging

My First 90 Days on the Job Happened During COVID-19

Starting a new job is stressful under any circumstances in any environment. There are lots of people to meet, institutional knowledge to learn, and team processes to absorb. When I began at Level Access as a Full Stack Engineer 90 days ago, all of these things entered my head. 

During my first 30 days on the job, I expected the steep learning curve that confronts every person in a new position. I went to the office every day to climb that curve, often chatting with coworkers before fighting traffic to return home. Level Access has an open office plan, and I had a desk grouped with other engineers which meant those chats carried an in-person collegial quality. It was a great start.

I didn’t realize, however, that I would only be going to the office for 30 days before coronavirus upended our lives and closed buildings everywhere.

Video Chat On Overdrive

Our company has many remote workers, so video meetings are regular. Everyone turns on their camera for every meeting, which is a great way to connect with team members — it’s nice to see everyone’s faces. For me, it eases the anxiety and loneliness that comes from being confined to my apartment.

The engineering team had been working from home every Friday, so when coronavirus closed our office we just expanded our usual schedule. We all stay very connected via video chats and on Slack. Whenever possible, we check in on one another and joke around to keep the atmosphere light. One of our team members set up a regular virtual happy hour, which is always a highlight of my week.

The team at Level Access has been great about keeping the staff informed about the virus and connected with folks in other departments. Our Chief People Officer sends out daily newsletters about any new federal or state regulations that may apply to employees, helpful articles on how to cope with confinement, and other company information. I love to read them!

We also started some fun new Slack channels. My favorite is the Work From Home Challenge. Each week we get a prompt and people’s responses are fun to read. My favorite challenge so far is to post a throwback photo of yourself. The exercise was worth it for the vintage hairstyles and clothing alone — things that remind me of growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.

On A Personal Note

In my spare time, I’ve been doing more cooking at home. No commute means I can cook my meal each day instead of devoting much of Sunday to the week’s meal prep.

It’s been really nice to have my husband nearby. His and my dog’s company are a huge reason why I am able to stay sane right now.

However, the span of a weekend just can’t fit all the housework and errand plus the away time we all need from the stress of a global pandemic and collapsing economy. My home gym has been the best way to fight that stress. To that end, my trusty exercise apps really achieve their highest purpose by extracting the exhaustion that puts me to bed every night.

What I Like About Remote Work

The remote work lifestyle is really a fashionista’s life saver, when done right.  For example, if that all-denim jumpsuit I ordered on Amazon turns out to be a dud, then I can change clothes easily. Should I get rained on while walking my dog, then I can run inside and restyle my hair with any number of hot tools in my closet.

Plus, as someone with chronic migraines, it’s nice to step away from my desk to lay down on my lunch break until my medication kicks in. In the office, I spend a lot of time hiding in dark rooms before just going home. It drags the process out and makes me uncomfortable for much longer than I need to be.

Last, if I need to take a break from a work task, I can fill it with a home task that I need to do anyway. I can brush my dog, fold a load of laundry, or pack for my upcoming move. All that freedom means I stress less about what I cannot change while away, because I’m there to do what can be done quickly and easily. That means a more efficient work hour free of worries I normally have to wait to solve or just put in a mental box.

What I Dislike About It

I find myself blurring the lines more between work and personal time, which can be tiring in an environment already fatigue-inducing due to stress. I’m the type of person who craves a routine. Going to the gym, driving to work, and then leaving at the end of the day were all part of my routine. When everything happens in the same space, it can be jarring and harder to manage.

I miss face-to-face conversation so much! Video calls help a lot but it’s nice to be in physical approximation of someone. If I were home alone without my dog and husband, the longing would be much more acute.

I miss the office kitchen with the ice machine and fun kitchen snacks like Chips Ahoy and Gushers that let me relive my childhood. I miss seeing people in common work spaces or overhearing an offhand conversation from coworkers that makes me laugh.

In short, I miss everyone in person, but — as cliche as it sounds especially in these times — I’m glad we have all found a way to come together while being far apart. It gives me hope that my work social life will return to normal after the world figures out how to best protect everyone.