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Starting a Job in Times of Crisis, Part 4

Part 4: The Path to a „New Normal“

An experience report written by Meriel Meiling, and Carla Walker, Junior Consultants at walkerproject.

After almost two months at the home office and an extraordinary situation at the company, we started our way into the new normality at the beginning of May.

The office was ready for the team again. As long as we were not working on site at customers, the team was now free to work in the office under strict hygiene regulations or from home. For the way to work or to the workshops at customer sites, our office manager sent us face masks home.

Internal shipping of face masks

Before the Corona crisis, we had a high level of interactive team dynamics. This was slowed down by the lockdown. Despite the various tools we had implemented for virtual interactions, it was much more difficult to bring energy into the discussions. Especially the joint development via digital channels turned out to be challenging. In addition, many of the team members had not seen each other personally for weeks. The team longed for a clear, common direction. In order to bring the team closer again and to create a new normality together, walkerproject organized two team workshops, internally called Mini Retreats.


Mini-Retreat 1: New start with decentralized encounters

In mid-May we met in small teams in different places around Switzerland due to assembly restrictions. Via Zoom we organized the exchange among the teams. The main topic of the first mini retreat was to define the new normality together after the lockdown. We discussed how we would like to start into 2021 and how each individual could contribute to this. On walks with a maximum of five people we discussed various questions about the “New Normal”. Unfortunately the weather did not play along. Nevertheless, the retreat was very good for the team spirit. We felt energetic, heard and ready for the future.

Team Ostschweiz auf einem Walking Meeting

Mini-Retreat 2: New way of working

The past months made us think: “Do we even need a permanent office anymore or will we all work from home in the future? Even before Corona, walkerproject was already dealing with this topic. The Corona crisis allowed us to face this question self-critically. The reality is that even after the lockdown all team members work mainly from home when they are not with clients.

So our second mini retreat was about critically questioning the way we want to work in the future. Although we currently work very well in the home office, we realized that we lacked social interaction with our team colleagues. We will also need a place where we can be creative and develop new things. The second mini retreat, where we all physically met, was already a good proof of this. We developed ideas for different working models in the office, such as “Shared Office Space”, still a fixed office, or even a “Pop-up Office”. We presented the developed options to each other, gave feedback, laughed and discussed. There it was again: the energy that was so difficult to generate in the virtual workshops. Also the lunch before the mini-retreat and a small aperitif after the mini-retreat helped us to deepen our relationships with each other. We really enjoyed seeing everyone in person again and spending the afternoon together. The mini-retreat was the highlight of the week for us!

The decision on how we will start into 2021 is still pending. It will probably be something between the various solutions. A third mini retreat is already planned for September 2020. We will do our homework and define how a modern office concept can work for the team in times of Corona.



Our Learnings

Starting a new job is a challenge. You want to find your place in the company as quickly as possible, get to know your colleagues and make a valuable contribution. We missed the many spontaneous interactions that promote the integration process during the Corona crisis. Digital interactions have to be organized and make short queries difficult. During the Corona crisis, it was not possible to ask a colleague for a document across the table, to learn more about an exciting project during the coffee break or to have a beer at a colleague’s favorite pub after work.

In our opinion, five points were decisive for us to feel accepted in the team and to look back on a successful start:

  • We conducted regular check-ins with our mentors and direct superiors. We were always able to contact them if we had questions or problems. The frequent exchange with colleagues helped us to feel part of the team.
  • In the digital world, informal exchange had to be organized and maintained. With a lot of creativity we found new forms of social exchange. Nevertheless, we look forward to the many face-to-face interactions.
  • The team was ready for the virtual work. We had the right equipment from the beginning to do our work efficiently from home. Home office was nothing new for us.
  • walkerproject has a strong learning and feedback culture. The whole team has learned new skills during this time. We discovered new tools and tested them with our team. Some of these tools have found their way into our everyday life. Our team colleagues were open to learn from us young team members as well.
  • The whole team did not lose their sense of humor during these difficult times. An Arabic proverb says that patience and humor are the two camels with which one can cross any desert.

Even though getting to know the team took a little longer, we have settled in well and have been able to gather exciting project experience with customers. The crisis will keep us busy for a while. We have already learned a lot about walkerproject, our colleagues and ourselves. The walkerproject team has shown us resilience in this difficult time. We are excited and look forward to the coming time in the walkerproject team.

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