The New Normal

It was Day-1 of my new job.

The year 2020 was just ending and we were exactly in the middle of December. People all over the world were eagerly waiting for the ominous year to end. The general feeling was that something magical would happen on January 1st, 2021 and everything would become just like it how was before the pandemic. Around the same time, I stepped into my new job.

The last time I had changed my job was in 2012. I clearly remember that day, just as I clearly remember the first day of all the other jobs before that one. By and large, they have had a similar pattern. You dress up well, arrive at a particular time in the office lobby, exchange greetings with other new joiners, sign a pile of documents, get your laptop and other office accessories, have an induction/orientation session, meet your manager and your team, get to know the office campus, and things like that.

But today everything was different. A lot of it felt strange and weird. To start with I wasn’t dressed in my best clothes. I did shower, combed my hair, and wore something decent but I surely could have dressed better. Certainly, my attire wasn’t one that I would have worn on a Day-1 to any office. Since about a fortnight ago a ton of emails had been steadily arriving in my mailbox with a lot of paperwork and with directions about how to get going on Day-1. Even then, naively enough, I was under the impression that I would have to be physically present at the office for Day-1. Two days before Day-1, the recruiter called up to inform she was available over phone, if I needed something. It was only then I got to know that I don’t need to go to office at all.

The day started with a meeting with my manager who tried his best to make me feel comfortable and took me through a ton of slides that talked about the Business Unit I was joining. My mind couldn’t register most of it at that time. And, the fact that I was using my precarious 12-year-old personal laptop didn’t help much.  A 2-hour long orientation session followed a little while later. Once again, my aged laptop and I struggled to keep each other afloat. Here I saw other new joiners of the day. I read some of the names, not even one I recall today. A few, like me, were on camera but I don’t recall a single face. In all my previous jobs, I distinctly remember the meaningful connections I would make on Day-1. None of that happened today.

In the afternoon a chauffeur-driven car arrived at my apartment gate to hand-over the company laptop and the Company Identity Card. He even clicked a picture of me holding the laptop – proof that the laptop was delivered. The laptop didn’t work and had to be returned and reissued – not getting into the details. I also heard that a bag of Day-1 goodies is on the way and I should receive them soon.

I am more than 3 months old in the company now and quite settled in but I haven’t met any of the people I work with. Well, that’s only partially correct as I keep meeting my immediate team through our regular video calls. They are all in the US and I am the only one who connects from India, so that isn’t odd. That’s how it would anyway be. Working virtually isn’t something new to me. The rest of the larger team are in India, and in Bangalore for that matter. Of course, we haven’t met and don’t know when/if we ever will.

But I must admit that I haven’t felt alone or left out even once. Grateful to have joined a team of some of the most genuinely authentic and immensely helpful people. Perhaps, the virtual connections are working afterall!

Will I have workplace friends like I did in my previous company? Will have to wait and watch!

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

18 thoughts on “The New Normal”

  1. We have read about this aspect of the “new normal” but it was always in a more general news article. It was fascinating to read your description.
    I believe the new normal will evolve back to a combination of the old and new — people crave social interaction and it is harder to share spontaneous ideas and/or feedback at a distance.
    We have been retired so long, I can’t even imagine how we would do our old jobs without face-to-face contact with others where as much as anything, we had to sell ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s how it seems like….the workplace will never be the same again. It will be a mix and a new way will emerge. I think that would be good for a ton of reasons, including the environment. As long as some physical interaction is there, it would be just fine. No virtual medium can ever replace the human connect. I completely understand that you feel baffled when comparing your work atmosphere to the present scenario. I think of my dad and uncles for whom such kind of virtual work would be unthinkable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! While I have read tons of articles about the “new normal”, this is the first narrative I have read from someone actually experiencing it. While I know that you have had a long experience of working virtually even before the pandemic, this “forced” WFH and the attached baggage it comes with must be an altogether new facet of life – both surreal as well as fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh tell me about it! I felt weird throughout Day-1 of my new job. Being used to working from home definitely is an advantage for me. But never thought I would join a new job and get on with it, all from home. This situation in indeed forced as previously I would go to office once or twice a week, just that there was no compulsion and I was free to decide. I don’t even know how the office looks like, how the reception is, how the cafeteria is, how the breakout areas and meeting rooms are, how the rest rooms are, how the recreation areas are, and so on. Every place has it’s distinctive flavour. This one I may never know. Now, this reminds me of a particular office that had everything in the shade of grey, which had made me feel so dull. The workspace arrangement of the same office had an odd arrangement too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. The workplace, where you are supposed to spend at least a third of your day and therefore a major part of your life, is almost a home away from home. It is a place where you grow socially and hone your skills and brains. The physicality of the whole experience is an integral part of our lives. I hope this whole pandemic business gets dealt with soon and we get back to business – as usual and not as a new normal!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Actually, I hope we never get back to business like before ever again. 😀
          Thinking about the commute through the traffic, the amount of time we waste on the roads, the pollution, is nightmarish.
          I am hoping a new trend emerges from the pandemic and there’s good balance of virtual work and working from office, like how I have been personally working for the past few years. The pandemic has shown us that work can very effectively be done virtually for many jobs (not all though). And given that physical interactions with your colleagues is critically important, let there be a mix of both. Maybe people go to office in rotations or maybe some other pattern will emerge.

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  3. I am really happy that I retired before things started being virtual. Nothing can beat the office atmosphere ! Real office give us lot of opportunity to interact with our colleagues and learn lot from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The “new normal” really is something different from the working perspective. As the project I’m working on has become more and more busy so many people have joined and many of them have never been to the site and I’ve only seen them in occasional video calls. (We generally don’t use video at work for some reason). So it feels strange as someone who was at a company to have folks joining that I never got to join for lunch, or catch up with. On the other hand things have changed a lot as I slowly and carefully share more of my personal life in my professional world.

    I actually hope we’ll have a sort of hybrid lifestyle at work. I don’t really think I benefit from going every day in a week but twice a week (as I start this week) would be fine. I could see a few colleagues, share a meal but also gain back 9-10 hours/week of commute time. And I also am still plotting ways to do 100% remote work to allow me more flexibility in where I work. Could I work while going on a bike tour? (work from 6-2, get on the bike and bust out 50-60 km?) Could I live somewhere warm from November-March? I think the pandemic is opening us up to more and more possibilities.

    Best of luck with the new job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seeing colleagues through video calls does help in some ways though it certainly not like face-to-face. However, in a global team, it used to be like this before the pandemic too. But we did have the hope of meeting each other during offsites and things like that.
      What is write in the second para is 100% what I think. I prefer a hybrid working style too and I had been doing that even before the pandemic. I hope the new job will allow that. And, the flexibility of where you work from would be a HUGE advantage for people like you and me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My daughter in law picked up a job after many years and she too is yet to meet anyone 😅 For her it is just two months now 😅

    We are living in a very strange world today. Thank God it is just a dream 😇

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I personally rather like the new virtual way, it gives a lot more flavours into the workday through interactions with the family members. The networking becomes an additional work though as the office lunch and tea time goes missing.
    To be honest I am still learning to be optimal at work from home, I rather end up overworking. And balancing increasing expectations from family are also a learning in progress still, even after one year at it. But overall interesting, and I certainly don’t miss the one hour between work and home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here Deb. In fact I am too used to this work from home business, having been doing so since the last 4 years. Don’t know how things will shape up once offices start opening up. But I have no desire to travel everyday. Once or may be twice a week is the max that I can do.

      Liked by 1 person

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