Career Planning

Four Ways to Acclimate to Office Culture in a Remote Setting

A young professional shares how she navigated her first "real-world" job and connected with the team, remotely.

Guest Contributor, Brittany Broome: Corvias Foundation Scholar

February 26, 2022

Four Ways to Acclimate to Office Culture in a Remote Setting
As someone who started my first post-graduate job at the height of the pandemic and remote-work transition, I had to begin my career from my apartment. Not only did this delay the feeling that I had fully entered the “real world,” but it left me with a glaring concern: how do I learn about and adjust to an office culture when I am not in the physical office? While this seemed like a daunting task at first, I quickly learned that it is fully achievable to not only to grasp office culture in a virtual environment, but to continue to grow as a young professional, as well. Given the rise in popularity of remote work, future young professionals are more likely to be in a similar situation when they begin their career. Using my experience, I can share a few things I learned along the way to hopefully help others make the most of the virtual work environment.
  1. Create a routine One of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for success is to create a routine to distinguish your working days from your weekends. It can be tempting to get up just as the business day begins and stay in pajamas, and sometimes that’s ok. What I found to be incredibly helpful, however, is treating each day as if I was going to the office.
    That doesn’t necessarily mean dressing business casual or packing a lunch. Instead, your routine could include activities such as showering as soon as you get up and grabbing a coffee from your favorite coffee shop before work begins. I do recommend changing into an outfit in which you can feel productive. It will be different for everyone, but your coziest sweats might not give you the energy you need to get through the day. Establishing these habits early on allowed me to step into a lifestyle shift and made it feel more like the young professional I am.
  2. Intentionally interact with your coworkers Remote work can take away the natural conversations you have when someone passes by your desk or when you are on the way to a meeting. If you don’t make time for conversation and connection with your coworkers, it can become easy to log in and out of your workday without ever engaging with others on things beyond the tasks at hand. One way I connect with my colleagues is by setting up virtual coffees. You don’t have to drink coffee and the meeting does not need to be scheduled in the morning, but they can be created to have time to talk to your coworker as a person and catch up with them about life and work. When you are new to a company, these meetings also present opportunities to chat with others about expectations and how people “normally” operate within the company and office.
    Questions can include, “Do people go out for lunch, or do they eat at their desks?”; ”What is the most useful resource you have found here?” or “What is your favorite aspect about the office culture?” Understanding these distinctions about the ebb and flow of your company can help set expectations should you ever need to go into the physical office. If available, you can also use your company’s chat feature to do the same and keep in touch with colleagues throughout the day.
  3. Turn on your camera Every team does it differently, but something I find to be incredibly helpful when I started working remotely is using my camera for as many meetings as makes sense. After over a year of working remotely, keeping cameras on helps break up back-to-back meetings and brings in a layer of human connection to the workday that may otherwise feel lonely if you are only working with emails, chats, and initials or headshots floating on your screen during calls. I find it easier to stay engaged in meetings when you know people can tell if you are distracted on another monitor or working in the background. Also, being able to see reactions to discussion topics is incredibly valuable. In an in-person office environment, there are no shortage of social cues and nonverbal communications, which can be just as important as what someone is saying. Keeping off video eliminates that completely.
    Not everyone is comfortable with using video. While I don’t believe anyone should be forced to do so, it is also a force of habit for some. I have found, more times than not, if you join a meeting and turn on your video, others will turn theirs on too, even if it isn’t their standard practice.
  4. Utilize all available company resources I encourage you to pay attention to the employee resources provided by your employer. My company, for example, sends out a monthly newsletter to keep employees up to date on various projects, important updates, and staff spotlights to keep us connected. We also have a vast online repository that has all operations documents someone might need as well as helpful guides and templates for project work. It might take some time to dig around and find what your organization has to offer, but it’s worth seeing what you have access to from your laptop. Finally, find out whether your company has professional development resources or budgets. One of the silver linings of working remotely is the ability to attend conferences or professional development courses virtually, without the need to take time to travel in-person. Virtual work should not hold you back from growing as a young professional.
My biggest takeaway from my experience is that remote work is truly what you make of it. It takes a lot of self-discipline to manage your time and be successful. However, if you lean into the resources your company offers and engage with your colleagues, it can help you adapt to any office culture, virtual or physical. Brittany Broome is a Project Associate at Dexis Consulting Group in Washington, D.C. At Dexis, Brittany works at the intersection of development, defense and diplomacy, with projects focusing on the issues of stabilization, security assistance and evaluation practices.

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