Starting a new job during a pandemic

While some companies are handing out pink slips, some are honouring the offer letters they issued and employing virtual tools to personally engage with new joinees

Rashmi Menon
Updated27 Aug 2021, 03:25 AM IST
Some are in limbo as they’re serving a notice period in one company but haven’t yet got the formal offer letter from the new workplace
Some are in limbo as they’re serving a notice period in one company but haven’t yet got the formal offer letter from the new workplace(Photo: iStock)

This is not how I envisioned my first day at the new office,” says Juhi Kachhap, who joined a beverage company as a brand manager on 26 March. Due to the nationwide lockdown, Kachhap’s joining and onboarding process happened virtually. She was also introduced to her teammates through a video conference call. In fact, Kachhap was in the middle of shifting to another city to join the new organization. “By the time it was confirmed, Maharashtra had suspended flights, there was a curfew, and I was anxious about travelling with increase in covid-19 cases,” says the 31-year-old.

Aarti Nandakumar, a software engineer from Bengaluru who joined an IT company a day before the lockdown, felt a little sad since she couldn’t physically be at her new workplace. “In the previous company which was a startup, I was working from home. So I was looking forward to experiencing the hustle and bustle at the new office. I even picked up a lot of new dresses,” says the 30-year-old.

Unlike Kachhap, Nandakumar had visited the office a month earlier and met her reporting manager. On the day she joined, she was directed to an online portal to complete the joining formalities and met her reporting manager and teammates over Skype. “I was anxious before joining, as I thought the joining date might be postponed due to coronavirus. But they kept the communication channels open, were very assuring and gave step by step instructions,” she says.

The covid-19 outbreak continues to be a critical concern for businesses globally. While some companies are handing out pink slips, some are honouring the offer letters they issued and adapting quickly to onboarding a new employee and ensuring they feel welcome, get connected with their team members and understand the work culture.

Games they play

Every evening startup Zostel’s team logs into the virtual town hall, after which the employees sometimes stay back to play a game of Mafia.

“We are a flat organization and all our documents and processes are stored on cloud. We also use Slack a lot for internal communication and doing tasks. With everyone working form home, we recorded real-time videos of all our processes, so that people can refer to it easily. The daily town hall also creates a sense of accountability across roles and makes people feel part of the team,” says Aviral Gupta, Zostel’s chief strategy officer and HR head.

As companies were caught unawares by the lockdown news, many weren’t able to mobilize official laptops for their employees on time.

Aadil Mohammad joined US-headquartered startup Nivi, Inc, on 17 March. By the time the company arranged a third-party vendor to rent him a laptop, the lockdown had been announced. As a result, the 21-year-old in Delhi now finds himself killing time at home.

“I have been hired as a customer service agent but since I can’t do that, as I don’t own a laptop, I was asked to try the platform as a customer and give feedback. I have finished that task. I am now hoping I will be given something else to do,” he says.

Even Kachhap found it difficult to access company data or any other information related to the brand she is in charge of, as she doesn’t have a laptop from the company.

“The company is strict about data sharing. It’s only now, after a week, that my official email id has started functioning. I am hoping with the mail access, it will get easier for me,” says Kacchap, who is using her personal laptop.

To help her understand the work culture, Kachhap has been assigned a “buddy”, another brand manager, who is constantly in touch with her.

In no man’s land

Then there are those who received positive verbal communication from the company about a job position, but are yet to receive official confirmation.

Digital marketeer Kshitiz Kumar, who is serving notice period at Infinity Advertising in Delhi, says that one company told him he’s “almost selected” for a role and that they will be releasing the offer letter, but it has not arrived yet.

“The companies are buying time from candidates. They are assuring me but I understand their situation too, as they must also be apprehensive about the economic impact,” says Kumar, 28. With his notice period coming to an end by this month, Kumar is worried. He has reached out to headhunters and is searching for jobs.

Gurugram-based Arpit Saxena, who was working with a Fortune 500 pharma company for a few months, had to return from the Netherlands few months ago as the organization realized he wasn’t right for the role. Interestingly, he got he that role after he was laid off by the same organization in mid-2018.

“When I was returned, I saw the same role in India from which I was laid off earlier. I applied for it again and was selected. I was about to get an offer finally but unfortunately, the position went on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, leaving me nowhere,” he says.

Having to look for a job again, Saxena says the experience has shattered his confidence. “Financially too, I lost a lot of money in the transition from Gurgaon to Amsterdam and back again. I also feel my fidelity towards the organization was not worth it after these incidents,” he says.

Kachhap, meanwhile, believes the lockdown has giving her a little bit of time to catch up on better understanding the company and brand she will be handling.

“There are lot of reports and numbers I have to familiarize myself with. Since there is no sales pressure right now, this time will help me understand the industry better,” says Kachhap.

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First Published:27 Aug 2021, 03:25 AM IST
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