Day 1 — Webchutney from Home

The Essential 2020 Joining Kit by Shambhavi Ramanathan, Planning Director

As if the black box of connections had conspired with my rusty old machine, to bring a bolt from the blue; Her voice echoed on what would be, the first of many WhatsApp calls:

“Shambhavi, are you ready to join work today?”

But… howww?

A digital onboarding for a digital marketing agency sounds about right, I reckoned. Then came painfully long editable PDFs, elaborate documentation — but somehow not as bearable this time around. Why?

And then it hit me.

‘First day feels’ is really a thing; walking in early, meeting people for the first time, setting up your table, legitimately walking out early.

All I wanted to do, was to walk the familiar halls of Alyssa and see what’s changed since 2015 (my last stint at Dentsu India). To stand at the reception, and test if my uncontainable excitement would get the better of me, all over again. To mindlessly complete a mandatory training course, while mindfully making note of who sits around, and mind-mapping the angles between the water cooler and view outside. To find PGK’s cheerful welcome and regular exchange of pleasantries, ensuring I’m settling in. To quench my inconsolable want for ‘new’, with the craving for the comfortably familiar. Eight years after my first job, all I wanted again was the old feeling of new. Instead, my Wi-Fi speed and smartphone’s intuitive voice clarity would be rite of passage into this ‘web of social relations’- as Bob MacIver would put it.

So, what do you do with an ancient spare laptop running on a 4GB RAM, functioning on lightning-speed Wi-Fi that a first-gen router refuses to amplify? With renewed hope, I was forced to turn to the most-used sentence in 2020, “Hi, can you hear me?”. And this in fact, would be the start of a series of first impressions.

My promptness at setting up Teams and logging onto a group call would be ominous of my efficiency and deftness. My concall manners would be telling of my future social skills. My timeliness to join a client call bridge would be a shorthand reference of my dedication at work. A litmus test in tech-capabilities for a seriously brave agency?

Thankfully, the first few days taught me WFH survival skills like I hadn’t imagined -

1. It’s the calls that happen after the concalls that really matter. If you’ve been on at least two of those, congratulations, you’ve been handed your welcome drink.

2. It’s okay to have a draft of air blowing as background noise, unless you’re on a WhatsApp call that relentlessly picks up even the smallest sounds. Stay sensitive.

3. Smiles are audible (via intonation) so smile when you have to, just like you would in person.

4. Sometimes, staying on mute is a sign of respect, other times, it’s plain absence.

5. Everybody uses English differently, and you can’t assess tone in mails unless you know them personally. Ask for voice notes.

6. Be thankful to those with WhatsApp DPs, at least there’s a face to put to the name. Every little helps!

7. Your tone of voice and name can surprisingly synchronize to create a mental image of who you may be (more than your mugshot/LinkedIn profile/designation)

8. Selling to clients on calls is hard as it is, but selling them a solution without ever seeing them is mighty hard. So, if they’ve heard you out on a call, imagine the mileage of an in-person meeting!

9. You don’t know how long these workdays will last, so make them good. The customary ‘morning!’ wishes and ‘good time to talk?’s were never out of fashion. Use them well.

10. Keep yourself in complete sync with at least one person in the organization, so you feel like you’re sitting within a well-functioning unit.

I did not believe WfH (Work from Home) would have been possible, but for WfH (Webchutney from Home). I daresay a thank you would not suffice, so maybe an endearing violation of protocol for a heartfelt high-five instead? Hopefully, we start afresh when we meet for the first time. Maybe a second attempt at a first day?



India’s favourite creative agency. Estd. 1999.

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