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Starting a new job during COVID-19: A contractor’s perspective

new job, working from home, contractor, Moir Group. covid-19, finance professional

Taking on new job is always a steep learning curve – but doing it at the height of a global pandemic, while leading a team remotely is a whole new challenge.

That’s exactly what happened to Rohit – a Chartered Accountant, with extensive financial control experience in complex corporate environments. He recently undertook a new contract through Moir Group with an iconic Australian consumer goods company, just before the global COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia.

He spoke to Anna Hall from Moir Group, about how he and the business have adjusted to the challenges of COVID-19 and the advice he has for others in a similar situation.

When you commenced a contract job through Moir Group in January 2020, what was your initial remit?

To lead the financial accounting team (of 6), implement best practice across the financial control and reporting function; and upskill the team to meet enhanced regulatory and compliance requirements.

What have been the three biggest challenges for the business during the COVID-19 crisis?

The three biggest challenges have been: cash-flow management, sourcing material from overseas suppliers and implementing robust social distancing measures and other safety rules in the workplace.

What have been the biggest challenges for you during the COVID-19 crisis and how has this impacted your role?

I have to admit, at first, the prospect of not having to brave the peak hour traffic in the commute to and from work, was quite enticing, however once the novelty wore off, the challenges for both myself and my team, became apparent:

  • Without being face-to-face with my team day in and day out, it sometimes led to miscommunication or misreading of cues. This can be particularly worrying for someone stepping into a new job.
  • Feeling isolated/out of the loop. I managed this by scheduling regular Skype / Facetime meetings with team members to address any concerns or questions they may have had.
  • Technological challenges. The home set up is not always the same as the office one. At first, I had a few challenges in terms of my printer not being configured to the work laptop and the work server being unable to cope with the additional remote requirements. Luckily, these issues were ironed out within the first week and things seemed to flow a lot smoother after that.
  • Working from home always requires a level of self-discipline in managing time and deliverables. There are more distractions in a home environment than a work one, but I have been lucky enough to have my own home-office, and am able to isolate myself from the rest of the house (and my dog!).

What have been some of the positives for you during the COVID-19 crisis?

There have been many:

  • No commute, which has meant I have saved money on tolls and petrol. Plus, it’s better for the environment.
  • Greater flexibility in managing my time and deliverables, which has allowed me to be much more productive.
  • While I do miss the personal interaction with team members, there are fewer interruptions in a homework environment, giving me more thinking time and allowing me to do more in the time I have.

What are you doing to keep motivated and keep your team motivated?

It’s important to me that my team know I am always available and there for them. A few of the things I have been doing are:

  • addressing roadblocks to team performance as soon as they arise;
  • providing complete flexibility to team members to plan their day, within limitations of delivery schedules;
  • being available to address any concerns or problems with communication, and coordination with the wider team; and
  • scheduling weekly online team meetings to assess morale and address any common concerns.

After we addressed the initial technological and other hiccups, the communication between the team flowed a lot easier. Also, once social distancing measures/protocols had been successfully implemented and team members were given the option to go into the office for short periods of time, we were able to mitigate most of the pitfalls of working remotely.

How are you preparing for “the road out of COVID-19”?

There are a few things we are working on in the background:

  1. Assessing the viability of having part of the team working from home.
  2. Continually reviewing the workspace to ensure there is adequate social distancing in place.
  3. Considering staggered opening and closing times to limit the number of employees using public transport at peak times.

What advice would you give to candidates seeking a new permanent or contract opportunity at the present time?

Australia has had great success in flattening the curve, and the opportunities are slowly starting to pick up.  Some industries may fare better than others in the short-to-medium term, so keep an open mind about the industry and type of work you would be willing to do.

The manufacturing, construction and infrastructure sector is poised to boom and may create new job opportunities soon.

What advice would you give to recruitment consultants so that they can help people looking for a new job, navigate this challenging environment more effectively?

The current unsettled economic environment is probably not conducive to long-term decision making by businesses, so be flexible to the current needs of employers (short term and contract roles).  The working-from-home model also allows for a wider selection of viable candidates for any job opportunities.

Finally, is there anything you have seen that will result in lasting change to your business?

We may perhaps consider local suppliers over overseas ones, for some of the critical inputs into our product and in the net analysis. I think the team performance has improved during this time, and it has helped us all develop more effective communication and coordination skills.

For more great resources and career tips/advice to help you during this time, head to our COVID-19 Resource Centre. If you’re looking for a new job, check out our jobs here or call us on (02) 9262 4836 to discuss. 

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