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Lessons from Joining a Remote Organization During a Pandemic

February 14, 2022

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Author

Nick Shereikis

Marketing & Communications Officer
Humentum

I joined Humentum, in a full-time capacity, in November 2020. Previously, I worked part-time for the same college I had just graduated from that May; before that, I interned with Humentum.

Now, I’m leaving Humentum, and it’s bittersweet.

I’m sharing my background so that you understand two important things about me as you begin reading this blog: First, that I’d never worked anywhere in a full-time position before joining Humentum, and second, that it was not a direct, linear journey from college to employment for me. I’d interned in the global development and humanitarian sector, but this wasn’t that—and, to add to the already-nerve-wracking nature of the situation, I joined a fully remote organization amid an ongoing and raging pandemic. I’m sure you can probably guess how I felt signing that offer letter, but to be clear, there was a lot of chaotic apprehension in the air.

Luckily, I joined an absolutely unbelievable team at a truly incredible organization. I’ve worked with Humentum for a little over a year now, and I’ve learned so much working with the phenomenally competent, skilled, and supportive Marketing and Communications team. I could write for days about everything that’s happened to me since meeting these colleagues and everything I’d like to thank them for, but to save you a little time, I’ll focus on a few of my biggest takeaways from the past year.

Be Proactive with Time Management

It took me way too long to figure this out. When working for a remote organization, there’s very little sense of rigid schedule—yes, there are check-ins and meetings to attend, but otherwise, you’re on your own. Consequently, it’s important that you know both how much time you have and how much time you need to work on different projects.

I’ve probably gone a little overboard on the time management front, but it helped me enormously. I used a combination of Asana (which we use as an organizational tool), a bullet journal, my personal Google Calendar, a productivity platform called Notion, and my Humentum Outlook Calendar to keep track of all the different projects and work I had at any given point. I also prioritized my to-do list at the beginning of every week and every day, to ensure I had a clear idea of what I needed to accomplish and to get a sense of how busy I’d be so I could mentally prepare ahead of time. I should also add here that I’m currently studying towards my master’s degree in political communication—for me, planning is key!

Don’t Be Afraid to Connect

If I’m being honest, this was my biggest concern about joining a remote organization. It can be difficult to really get to know your coworkers over Zoom; even though you interact with them almost every day, it’s harder to navigate each other’s professional mannerisms or workflows digitally. And it’s especially challenging during a pandemic—where normally I would’ve been able to at least meet up with colleagues in the same city as me; COVID-19 made that virtually impossible.

Everyone’s in the same boat together, and everyone wants to connect however they can—you’ll all find ways to make it happen, whether it’s through innovative new Slack plug-ins like Donut or anything else.

I still don’t feel like I know everyone at Humentum as well as I might if we worked together in a physical office, but I’m not worried about it anymore. I felt comfortable and loved working with my team, and truly enjoyed chatting with people from other teams. It just takes a little more effort: Instead of casually walking by someone’s cubicle or office, now you have to reach out and set up a call. Instead of meeting by the watercooler to chat, now you have to message the #watercooler channel in Slack. But at the end of the day, everyone’s in the same boat together, and everyone wants to connect however they can—you’ll all find ways to make it happen, whether it’s through innovative new Slack plug-ins like Donut or anything else.

Fight Your Imposter Syndrome—But Also Know It Will Disappear Over Time

I’d heard about imposter syndrome—persistent feelings of self-doubt—a lot before graduating college but never really given it much thought. I considered myself to be fairly competent, so I never really worried about work being too difficult for me before joining Humentum.

Confidence is—generally—a byproduct of experience; nobody expects you to know everything right away. Wherever you are, you were hired because your supervisor and/or team recognized your talents and trusts in your ability to learn the job.

That said, once I joined the organization, I felt imposter syndrome almost immediately. While I still felt I could do the work, I began to second-guess my ability to contribute to strategic team conversations or take the initiative on certain projects. I was lucky enough to have colleagues I felt I could share these feelings with, who were kind enough to reassure me, but I still consistently worried that I was too quiet in team meetings or that I’d never make any progress beyond my current position.

I’ve overcome those feelings. It just takes time. Confidence is—generally—a byproduct of experience; nobody expects you to know everything right away. Wherever you are, you were hired because your supervisor and/or team recognized your talents and trusts in your ability to learn the job. It’s okay if it takes time for you to feel comfortable speaking up in group settings or to learn how to use different programs and software; trust in the process, trust in your team, and it will get better.

Know When You Need to Prioritize Yourself

I cannot possibly stress this enough: absolutely nothing comes before your own mental and physical health. Burnout is real—especially working remotely in a pandemic, when our living spaces physically overlap with our workspaces and time feels like it’s losing meaning—and it’s dangerous, both to your organization and yourself on a more personal level.

I’ve found a few strategies for prioritizing my own well-being. I block hours off in my work schedule if I know I need a break between meetings. I mute my email and Slack notifications outside of my official work hours (which I try to communicate clearly with my colleagues). I do my best to get as much sleep as possible when I know I have an particularly busy day coming up.

Burnout is real—especially working remotely in a pandemic, when our living spaces physically overlap with our workspaces and time feels like it’s losing meaning—and it’s dangerous, both to your organization and yourself on a more personal level.

If you’re having a rough week, communicate that with your supervisor and team. If you need extra support with a project, ask for it. If you desperately need time off because you feel yourself headed toward a breakdown, take it. I get the impulse to power through hardship—it’s difficult to feel like you might be letting people down, or that you might be sacrificing professional credibility for personal time. But I promise you, there is absolutely nothing in this world worth compromising your own health and safety. So, take care of yourself.

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Though I’m leaving Humentum, and my team, I will carry this experience and these lessons wholeheartedly into the next chapter of my professional story. I hope you also find them useful in your own journey!

 

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