A woman is working on her laptop at home.
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Starting a new job remotely: ‘There are no stupid questions’

12 Mar 2021

Denise Hensen joined Personio during the pandemic. Here, she shares how she coped with starting a new job in a new country remotely and how she aims for a better work-life balance.

Moving to a new country and starting a new job are both big life steps. Denise Hensen, a sales development representative for the Benelux market at HR tech company Personio, did both in the midst of a pandemic.

Personio has a growing base in Ireland and Hensen joined the company in September 2020, moving to Ireland from Amsterdam. Like many others, she’s currently working remotely full time.

“I live in a small, cosy apartment together with my boyfriend who works for Salesforce, and he is also working from home 100pc of the time,” she said. “When I moved to Dublin in September, I had high hopes that by now it would be possible to work from the office once a week or so. But apparently that was wishful thinking!”

Denise Hensen of Personio is standing outdoors and smiling into the camera.

Image: Denise Hensen

Staying positive and connected to people

Before the pandemic, Hensen followed a hybrid working model at a different company, where she worked from home for one or two days a week. She would attend most internal meetings in person and use her days working from home to give her individual duties her full attention.

“Covid-19 definitely forced me to adapt my working style as 100pc of my work is now digital, carried out from behind a laptop,” she said. “Going remote was a difficult transition as, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of work is really getting to know your colleagues.

“That’s why I now make sure to have some nice coffee meetings scheduled throughout the week, where we don’t talk about business but use the time to make a real connection with colleagues and talk about how we’re doing. This has been all the more important for me, because joining Personio in the middle of the pandemic has meant I’ve been unable to get to know colleagues in the normal fashion.”

‘I hide my laptop in a cupboard once work is finished’

There are even times during the week when Hensen and her colleagues put aside to simulate working in an office together. They set up a Zoom call and sit on it together while each one works on their own tasks.

“The great thing about doing this is that if you need to ask a question or need advice, it’s very easy to connect and get the help of multiple people. It also gives us an excellent opportunity to discuss what we should watch on Netflix.”

Hensen has found that keeping a positive mindset – while not always easy – has served her well in recent months. “This is so important while working remotely, particularly given that we’re not doing this because we choose to.

“And, what’s more, life as we know it and love it has been put on hold. I find that being able to accept this current situation and be grateful for everything that is still possible helps to keep me grounded.

“Especially now that we’re all working from home instead of together at the office, collaboration and communication are also key, and these skills go hand in hand. I believe working together, supporting each other and asking questions in order to learn has never been more important.”

Starting a new job remotely

What kinds of challenges has Hensen faced adjusting to a new role from home? Learning on the job has been more difficult and time-consuming than it would have been in an office, she said.

“When you work together face to face, you can easily learn from others by just observing and shadowing them when they perform their day-to-day responsibilities and get quick responses to any questions.

“Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this and my top piece of advice is to be curious, make sure to ask a lot of questions and remind yourself that there are no stupid questions. I certainly bombarded my experienced colleagues with questions at the very beginning!

“Another challenge for me is being in the same environment almost 24/7. This sometimes makes it difficult to find the perfect work-life balance. For example, my desk is situated right next to my bed and so I’m reminded of work the minute I go to bed and the second I wake up.

“Luckily, I have found my way around. In the mornings and after work I take a nice walk, which resembles the commute I was used to making every day. Also, I hide my laptop in a cupboard once work is finished to make sure I switch off and enjoy my evenings and weekends.”

Is hybrid the way forward?

As someone who has experience of a hybrid working model, Hensen believes that this could be the perfect middle ground for employees. “Working remotely suits a lot of people but, more often than not, hybrid working is what works best. I think a lot of people miss the social aspect of work if they work 100pc remotely.

“Speaking for myself, I’m really looking forward to being able to find a balance between working from home and working from the office when possible.

“Next to the social aspect, remote working could be difficult for people who struggle to find and stick to a routine. Moreover, you need a good environment, so if your home is not really suitable for working it could be difficult. Hopefully as Europe emerges from lockdown … people will have the opportunity to find the balance that works best for them.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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