Best Practices for Remote Onboarding

Woman waving to laptop screen in virtual meeting

What to expect...when you're expecting to onboard remotely.

There is often a mix of nerves and excitement when starting a new job—there are new people, new responsibilities and a new culture to learn. Throw remote onboarding for the role into the mix and you are at another level of first-day jitters. Especially if you aren’t used to a remote environment.

With remote onboarding you might find yourself wondering how you’ll know what to do, if you have the right tools to succeed in your new role, how do you take an active role in getting up to speed, and so on. You might find questions related to the company and people cropping up as well. Things like how will you get to know your managers and coworkers, who to contact with questions, how can you figure out the company culture and much more. 

Luckily, we have some tips to help ease your remote onboarding journey and ensure you get started on the right foot as a new employee.

Remote onboarding timeline: What to expect

Prior to your start date

With traditional, in-person roles you typically spend your first day or week being assigned any supplies, filling out the necessary paperwork and so on. With remote onboarding, you will most likely get any necessary supplies (like your computer) mailed to you, or you will be provided with instructions on how to pick them up. Relevant HR forms and any email or other company account information will likely be sent to you electronically.

You should expect a welcome email or package from your company or new manager that mentions the following information at a minimum:

    • Start date, time, resources to use for training/meetings/etc.
    • First day/week schedule
    • Any documents they need to provide you/the company
    • Your point of contact and their contact information 
    • Any “about the company” information that is relevant

If you don’t receive these, or any information regarding these details, prior to your start date you should check in with your hiring contact to find out more about what to expect on your first day.

And it should go without saying, but you’ll want to get prepared for a lot of video meetings. Most likely you interviewed remotely so you should be set, but if not ensure you have a comfortable, quiet place where you can take these meetings. Setting up a remote workspace before your first day is key to successful remote onboarding.

📖 Read more: Setting Up Your Remote Workspace

Your first day/week

Just as in traditional onboarding, you can expect introductions to your team(s) and coworkers early on. If at all possible, ask for these to be face-to-face connections, even if that means over video. Being able to put a face to a name (both on your side and theirs) is beneficial for everyone involved and can go a long way to helping you integrate more quickly into the team. 

First Day Checklist

If you can’t meet everyone one-to-one, consider asking for an optional, virtual coffee hour or similar to meet the team or others at the office. And if there is an office space where people are working, you might ask if someone can take you on a virtual tour, or even share images and videos from the office to help give you a sense of the company environment.

You will also want to clearly communicate any questions about your role and responsibilities from the get-go. Things you should be aware of, at a minimum, are the company values, your team’s objectives and your own individual goals and responsibilities. Additionally, determine your schedule for availability to attend any necessary meetings early on. 

In your first day or week you’ll also have some basic housekeeping tasks. You should always verify that all equipment and accounts provided to you are working properly, prior to the minute you’ll need them. Completing any necessary HR paperwork is also important at this time as many of their documents are time-sensitive.

This is a great time to ask any questions about benefits you may have, to go over workplace policies and procedures, safety and security procedures and the code of conduct.

First Week To-Dos

  • Check-in regularly with your manager, especially if you have questions
  • Schedule meetings with different departments/teams to get to know more people
  • Make sure you are scheduled for any necessary training sessions
  • Determine if there are any tools, systems or processes you still need to learn about, when you should plan to be up to speed on them, and whether there’s any training you can access remotely or someone you should reach out to for help.

Ongoing

Congratulations! You made it through your first week as a remote employee. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop the good habits you started in week one. Remote onboarding is an ongoing process, just like onboarding in-person. And it’s nuanced because you might be working asynchronous and you aren’t always able to read body language or facial expressions when remote onboarding. That is why checking in with your manager and/or team regularly is so important. Make sure to use the milestones that were included in your onboarding plan as a starting point.

You’ll also want to take time to get to know your colleagues. It can be more challenging if you aren’t seeing each other regularly in the break room or hallways but there are still plenty of ways to connect with people at your new workplace. Try to meet with your colleagues regularly to mimic the short, informal interactions you’d have in person– this can be quick 10- to 15-minute one-on-one discussions. 

Consider asking your manager to send out an announcement that you’ve joined the team along with a note that you would welcome phone calls or video meetings to get to know your colleagues better in the first few weeks. Or proactively reach out to set up virtual coffees with your direct coworkers. Just as you would when getting to know any new person make sure to pay full attention to the conversation and come prepared with topics of conversation.

Getting To Know

One of the best things you can do to connect with coworkers is to work on building trust with them. Open dialogue, being available to connect and setting clear expectations (and then meeting—or exceeding them) all go a long way to help establish that you plan to be a trusted team member for the long haul.

Tips for successful remote onboarding

Get to know everyone’s communication preferences

Remote communication is a different animal than in-person office talk. No longer can you swing by someone’s desk or grab a quick coffee and talk on the way. The first step to communicating well in a remote environment is to find out how everyone prefers to communicate, so you know whether to monitor your email, Slack, or another channel your team relies on. You may also want to note if there are times of the day or week that is “no meeting” or work time where people won’t appreciate being disrupted. 

Keep it neutral (for now)

A good rule of thumb is, until you can confidently gauge your coworker’s personalities, it’s a good idea to keep the tone of your communications relatively neutral. To help figure out the tone of communication in your new office, pay attention to how your manager, teammates and other long-time employees talk to one another and use that as a guide.

Introduce yourself as often as you need to 

And don’t be afraid to remind people who you are, as appropriate. Starting a new job always involves introducing yourself to a lot of new people as they learn who you are and what you do. That process might take a little longer and require a bit more effort on your part when you start remotely. That’s especially true for folks outside of your immediate team. And it’s easy: Before making your comment or asking your question, simply state your name and mention you’re new to the company. 

Understand what is expected of you

Working remotely and remote onboarding has unique challenges. Since your manager and colleagues won’t be working in the same space, you can’t just stop in to ask a quick question and they can’t help you course-correct in real-time quite as easily. This means that you’ll want to be proactive and make sure you understand your role and the tasks you are working on. Whenever you discuss a new project, for instance, be sure to ask when deliverables are due and how your boss would like to receive them. 

Being organized will go a long way toward success in remote onboarding. If you can have detailed outlines of everything you need to know and do that is helpful. A good way to accomplish this is with a shared document or task list that has set due dates for items. You can always create one yourself if one isn’t given to you.

Stay proactive

Staying on track requires you to be proactive often. During your first week or two in your new role make sure you go over what goals you need to hit in your first 30, 60, and 90 days. You may have a plan for this already sketched out for you or you may be responsible for putting one together yourself. Either way, review the plan with your direct supervisor to make sure you are both on the same page.

Again, using video is crucial to successful remote onboarding, and remote work in general so if you aren’t already comfortable with remote technology you’ll need to become familiar with it quickly.

Take care of yourself

Remote onboarding can be hard on you physically. Be sure that you build in breaks from the computer and meetings, especially during the onboarding process when you are getting so much new information shared with you.

Don’t get bogged down in just the tasks when remote onboarding. If you were in an office you would be engaging in the social side of onboarding, perhaps having lunch, coffee or attending happy hour with coworkers. When onboarding remotely, you want to focus on the social side of things as well.

Remember, it’s a process

Be flexible. You should be prepared to constantly make adjustments, especially if remote work is new to you. Set up a regular check in with yourself to note what is working well and what isn’t so you can adjust as necessary.

If you are comfortable doing so, provide feedback to your manager or company on how the remote hiring process and remote onboarding went for you. If you have any suggestions that could have helped you have a better start at the company you can share that for future employees to benefit.

And finally, remember onboarding doesn’t last just one day or one week. You should expect multiple video conversations, meetings, and the like. Remote onboarding, just as traditional onboarding, isn’t a one and done situation—it is an ongoing process.

If you are accustomed to a traditional office environment, remote work can be challenging. It might take a bit longer for you to feel comfortable both professionally and socially at your new organization. But, if you remain flexible and patient and give yourself time to adjust, you should successfully sail through this new-to-you experience. Remember—the company hired you for a reason! You’ve got this.

👉 Next on the agenda: Managing Remote Work after the initial onboarding experience.

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