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The world changed on their first day at Bath Building Society
It's three months into his new role as IT Support Administrator at Bath Building Society and Rhys Taylor has yet to work out who makes the best cup of tea in the IT team. In fact, he hasn't met the whole team face to face yet, because on the day he joined at the end of March, the UK had just gone into lockdown.
Rhys wasn't alone facing his first day in lockdown. Over at our Oldfield Park Branch, Katie Lake was also preparing for her first day as a Branch Customer Service Adviser - just as the team were preparing for reduced opening hours and introducing social distancing measures at the Branch.
It can't be easy starting a new role while socially isolated from the whole team and having to navigate a new role with no one to check things with (apart from Dolly the dog, Rhys's new work mate). We had a (virtual) chat with Rhys and Katie about how they are finding this extraordinary experience:
How have you found the lockdown period, working remotely in your new role?
Rhys: I never imagined I'd start a new role and 12 weeks later still not met the whole team. It's my first office job, but apart from my interview, I've spent the majority of my time working from home. But in a way, even though it was strange for me, it was also good to know that remote working and getting used to communicating with colleagues via online video meetings, was a new experience for everyone.
Katie: As Building Society Branch staff are key workers, I did start work in the Branch on my first day, but it was a very different day to that I'd anticipated. A much smaller team in Branch at one time and having to greet customers at the door, observing social distancing. Three months later I've finally met all the Branch team!
What sort of jobs have you been doing that you might not have expected?
Katie: Because we're working reduced opening hours and customers have been encouraged to only visit the Branches for essential transactions, I've been supporting our central customer service team who are working from home and handling an increased volume of customer calls and emails - not something I was expecting to do, but it's really helped me learn quickly!
Rhys: Providing IT support to a team that aren't used to working remotely is a new challenge for the whole team, but it's worked really well and given me the opportunity to 'meet' different people from other departments within the Society.
Are there any surprising advantages to the situation?
Rhys: Well, I haven't had to meet everyone at once and be overwhelmed with new names to remember. But video meetings help you out you just meet a few people in one meeting and names are visible on the screen!
Katie: Being thrown in the deep end, with everyone getting used to working with social distancing rules in the Branches, I've done a lot of running between the customers and cashiers. It's meant I've got to know the customers really well in this short time - and appreciate how important visiting the Branch is to them, particularly during these uncertain times. For some of them, the Branch team are the only people they see regularly and they all know me now!
Is it possible to feel part of a team you haven't met yet?
Rhys: It's surprising how warm a virtual welcome can be! I do feel very welcomed into the business, not just the IT team, but the wider Society. Within the IT team we have regular group calls, sharing what we've been working on and prioritising upcoming work. Everyone has been amazingly supportive and welcoming.
If anything, it's made me more excited to go back to the office when it's safe to do so and meet everyone face to face.
Katie: I've felt extremely welcomed to the Society and am looking forward to meeting the rest of the team when we can!