Ted Baxter and Dixie help Jillian Garrigues work from home.

Starting a new job during crisis
presents obstacles, rewards

On March 23, I started my brand new job as a Public Information Officer at the Idaho Transportation Department. When I applied and interviewed back in early February, I had no idea the coronavirus would have such a large impact on our day-to-day lives. It’s definitely a strange time to be starting a new job with video meetings and phone calls and very little personal interaction, but after talking to a few other new ITD employees who also started in the midst of this crisis, we all agree how fortunate we are to have a job right now.

My first day was filled with the usual HR paperwork, computer setup, and enough ITD acronyms and abbreviations to make my head spin. Leslie De La Cruz, a Crash Data Analyst with the Office of Highway Safety, was also starting. We met Carlin Hill in a conference room to sign our paperwork with hand sanitizer ready and our tables spread across the room from each other at a safe distance. Throughout the day, as we met our new co-workers, we waved hello instead of shaking hands, which was an adjustment for all of us!

“It felt almost like you were being rude,” De La Cruz told me laughing. “I met people and we went on a little tour, but it was a lot of waving hi and keeping a distance from everyone.”

At this time, many employees were already working from home, and our small tours included a lot of empty desks around the building.   
“I think I only met four people in my office in person,” De La Cruz said.

Before we knew it, Governor Little’s stay-at-home order sent us working from home too, less than two weeks into the job! Technology has been a life saver.   

“Thankfully, I had one full day at the office in the system and working with crash data. My team is really awesome, and they’ve been Jabbering with me and sharing their screen so they can walk me through stuff that I don’t know,” De La Cruz said.

In North Idaho’s District 1, Hunter Wabs started as a Transportation Tech Engineer in late February. He tells me he’s spending his time working from home familiarizing himself with the engineering computer programs, preparing for his certification tests, and helping other team members out in any way possible.

“I’m very thankful. If I didn’t have this job, I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing,” Wabs said.

Pictured at left: Leslie DeLaCruz shows her work-from-home office.

While Wabs, De La Cruz, and I all had at least a little bit of time working in the office, imagine starting after the stay-at-home order was already in place! That’s what my newest co-worker in the Office of Communication is doing. Public Information Officer Aubrie Spence had to meet our boss, Vince Trimboli, in the Eagle High School parking lot to safely get her work computer and supplies to be able to work from home. And remember all of that new hire paperwork? She worked with Carlin over video to get it filled out, scanned, and sent.

“It took a day or two to figure out how to share a file that large over email,” Spence said.

As awkward as these video meetings might be, they are a very helpful replacement for talking in person, especially for new employees.
“WebEx and Microsoft Teams have been huge because at least I feel like I’m seeing people and meeting them, even if we’re not meeting in person. I’m really glad this technology is in place to let us do that,” Spence said. “Everybody keeps asking me ‘I can’t believe you’re starting like this, how are you doing this?’ and honestly if we didn’t have the technology we do, I think it would be really hard.”

Starting any new job can be overwhelming, let alone working from home so early on, but staying positive and engaged will help.

“Keep your head up, it’s only going to last for a little bit, and always be hungry for work,” Wabs said.

“The more that you can jump in and get yourself in the middle of things, it will make you feel more involved in the process,” Spence added.
I can’t complain about the short commute to my kitchen table office, lunch breaks in the backyard, and more time with my two dogs, but I know we will all be so happy to be reunited at ITD once again! In the meantime, we “newbies” are waving hello and hope to see you all in person soon.

Published 04-17-20