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Dan Atkinson – Locked down

2 June 2020

Dan Atkinson shares his thoughts on the unusual situation of starting a new job when the office is in lockdown.

This article was first published in the June issue of Professional Paraplanner.

One question I’ve been asked several times recently is, what’s it like starting a new job in lockdown? I know that I am not the only one to do this so I thought it might be helpful to share my reflections on starting my new role as Head of Technical at Paradigm Norton Financial Planning.

Strange but efficient

I’ve always worked in an office with occasional periods working from home. These have been very focused times done primarily to avoid interruption. In contrast, when starting at a new firm spending time with people is key to building relationships and understanding how they work. A typical first day might involve getting set up at your desk, meeting the team and going through some paperwork. Not this time.

Instead, a couple of days prior to starting I received my company laptop and phone. My first day was spent on the phone with our Backstage Team making sure that all my systems were in place and working. Paradigm Norton use MS Teams as a core way of communicating. And so, by the power of video, I was able to see and hear my new colleagues.

Having induction meetings by video is surprisingly efficient. No need to worry about colleagues being based elsewhere, no need to travel and a far smaller impact on the environment. Win, win, win.

Quality time

The team made a real effort to make me feel included with lots of time meeting people in my diary. I expected to feel slightly remote (no pun intended), but that really wasn’t my experience.

Despite the physical distances between us, my meetings felt more intimate than I had expected. When we join a team, we rarely meet people in their own homes. We might have a conversation over lunch, but that’s very different from the kitchen table. With me sat in my home office, we were both on ‘home turf’. The shared experience of lockdown brought us together in a way that was quite unexpected.

Intense

You would think that sitting at a desk at home chatting to people on video would be relatively easy. So why not have back-to-back calls with people? It turns out this is not a great idea.

Listening well requires great concentration. You need discipline to listen without your own agenda. You need to be present in that moment, in that meeting, with that person. In a video meeting you are face-to-face across a virtual table. You are on show the whole time. It is intense.

Christopher Jones-Warner has run sessions on communicating to connect for the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment. He says, “when you put love in, you get love out”. In other words, if you want to build a relationship you need to make an effort.

On reflection, of course it is intense and tiring. Building relationships is one of the most important things to do when you join a company. Having deep and meaningful encounters with individuals (and lots in a short timespan) is intense and needs to be paced.

Looking forward to meeting

It’s strange to think that when I first meet my new colleagues, I will have seen their homes and spent many hours with them (even met their children) but not shook their hands. Having a beer or taking part in a company quiz night via Zoom is one thing, but I’m really looking forward to finally meeting them face-to-face.

What have I learned?

Tim Maurer says that “personal finance is more personal than it is finance”. I have long believed this, but I have also come to understand just how personal the business of personal finance is too; we sometimes take the relationships we have with colleagues for granted. We shouldn’t.

I’ve learned that building lots of relationships in a short time is rewarding and exhausting in equal parts. A key lesson from my first month is to be intentional in setting time to focus. For me that means building time into my day to prepare to be present for meetings and time to mentally debrief afterwards. You need to learn your rhythm.

So, what’s it been like starting a new job in lockdown? Rewarding, exhausting but ultimately well worth the effort!

 

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