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17 November 2020

Remote Onboarding: Week 1 at Hippo


Starting a new job is always a little strange; it takes a little while to understand new workplace cultures, to remember everyone’s name and to understand the dos and don’ts of the refreshment rota.

My first week as a Content Designer at Hippo coincided with the start of the UK’s second lockdown and the US Elections (still undecided at the time of writing). This has definitely helped with my onboarding process, as the definition of ‘normal’ has definitely pivoted a little.

Thankfully too, the Hippo team have been great at making me feel welcome and prepared.

Equipment was shipped to my home and my calendar was dotted with online introductions to people (welcoming and helpful) and processes (intuitive, understandable and on the right side of challenging).

When getting into Content Design, one of the most helpful books was The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman. In it, the writer creates a strong appeal for good design to pervade all aspects of our life (though bad design is often as commonplace).

While going through my first week, the book popped into my head. Onboarding is a service that can be designed like anything else. Make it too intense or weighty and you can feel panicked and fearful, make it too simple and you will feel bored.

First impressions count.

So no one is happier than me to say that the onboarding process feels refined, friendly and intuitive. It is good service design in action.

Yet design is almost always affected by the push/pull of intention meeting reality, and even the best-planned processes can be skewed by the real world (hello: lockdown 2 and the US elections).

Likewise, there have been some hiccups in my week of remote onboarding: poor internet connections, delivery drivers coordinating door knocks with Google Meets and pets that choose only the worst moments to request their own ‘business meetings’.

These things happen and you have little choice but to go along with them.

Toshi and Bowie.
Bowie and Toshi: Taking care of business.

But starting a new role should not be a breeze; it should be more of a tightrope walk. You should feel slightly out of your depth but know that the skills you were hired for can make a difference (pro tip: remembering how everyone takes their tea can always help with the second part). Over time, challenges should grow but your skillset should follow.

While I feel cautiously confident that they will, I already feel assured that I’ve made the right call in becoming a Hippo.

So it’s been a surprisingly normal week all things considered.

Hopefully, this will continue until something outlandish happens, like seeing a new president (maybe even a returning one), being able to leave the house for more than exercise or essential supplies and finding out that my workmates exist outside of my laptop.

Roll on week 2.