A box of chocolates

A day in the life of a newcomer arriving mid-way through the pandemic

Call To Sweets — Jul 2020 by Margarida Afonso

Virtual Onboarding at Celfocus

Our daily life has become something different from what we used to call normal - it is a new normal, as we hear all over the news. The pandemic has impacted and changed every aspect of our lives, and joining a new company is no different.

I joined Celfocus on May 18th, mid-way through the pandemic and in the fully remote working scenario imposed by the COVID-19. I had in the past joined an international company having done all the interview process remotely so that part was not new for me; however, joining Celfocus during the pandemic was the first time that the actual work was done fully remote from day 1.

How is this more challenging than the “normal” onboarding?

Joining a new company is like becoming a new member of a family - it is as much about getting to know the structure, processes and history as it is about understanding the people and the formal and informal relationships between them. This all tends to happen naturally when we are face-to-face together (almost) every weekday. In a fully remote scenario, however, it is not as easy – I would not say it is not possible, but it requires being more intentional to make it happen.

After being with Celfocus for about 2 months, this is how my remote onboarding and working experience have been, and what I have learned so far:

  • Fully Remote Onboarding
  • Virtual Training
  • Connecting with my team
  • Intentionally taking care of my wellbeing during work hours

Fully Remote Onboarding

Since Celfocus has offices in multiple locations, part of the onboarding meetings would have had been remote anyway. With the pandemic all of them were remote. I found the onboarding sessions quite useful to get an overview about all the different areas of the company as well as key points of contact in each area. It's quite a lot of information to absorb in a relatively small amount of time!

Having a 100% remote onboarding can be a little heavier than doing it face-to-face, because of the number of hours staring at the screen. However, in my personal experience with this onboarding, for most of the days, there was a maximum of 3 or 4 onboarding sessions, so I found it to be quite manageable.

If anything, I may have asked for help on simple stuff (accesses, what internal systems to use when, how to access specific content, etc.) a little more than I otherwise would have, had we been in a normal scenario. So, thanks everyone for your patience and support!

Virtual Training

As part of the onboarding, I've done several training sessions. The face-to-face sessions would have been longer but, since the training was done fully remotely, the sessions were broken into smaller time slots (e.g. 2 hours) which I believe was a good idea to avoid getting the learners too tired with long sessions. The trainers included online hands-on group exercises which made the sessions more interesting and dynamic.

Connecting with my team

Parque Cidade Porto.jpg

I believe that true connection happens face to face. Yet, there's a long way we can go in starting to build connections when face to face is not possible.Here are a couple of things I've done to get to know my team while all of us are working remotely:


- held one-to-one meetings with each person in the team so we could (start to) get to know each other;

- organized an outside event (more to come!) in an outdoors space - Oporto city park – so that we could get together safely in an informal setting.


Intentionally taking care of my well-being during work hours

While I believe (partial) remote work has benefits for good work life balance, it also brings challenges health wise – we may tend to take fewer or no breaks, move around less, sit in a less than ideal position, interact less with others and stare at a computer screen for too many hours without interruptions.

In an office, these challenges tend not to happen - we naturally interact with our colleagues very frequently, we walk to lunch and coffee breaks, we move between our desk and meeting rooms, etc. In a partial remote work setting, working from home once or twice a week as I have done in the past, I had not felt the need to be intentional about all these aspects as the days in the office would “take care of it”.

Working fully remote as we are now, I feel that, to get the same results health wise, we need to, again, be intentional.

Here are some of the things that I have been doing and that have worked for me:





I alternate between sitting and standing during your work day – to do so I bought a foldable standing table (that I can easily store behind a door), and I work part of the time on my work desk (sitting) and part of the time on my standing desk (standing).












I work from my balcony as whenever possible, to get as much sun as I can.










I have incorporated more sports on my daily life – besides my online yoga classes which I already did prior to the pandemic, I bought a stationary bike to cycle a few minutes every day and I try to walk everywhere.






I make myself take “no screen” breaks, one mid-morning and another mid-afternoon, to grab something healthy to eat and give my eyes a rest from screens – yes, mobile screens are out too during the breaks, but book reading and sudoku challenges (on paper) are allowed.




Wrapping it Up

Onboarding during a pandemic, in full remote work, means being more intentional about creating connections with our colleagues and about taking care of our work wellbeing. It also requires our colleagues to be more patient with us newcomers. It is challenging, but it is possible, and it can be as rewarding as the “old normal” onboarding used to be.

Stay safe, stay healthy, be happy!