Starting a new job as a remote worker can feel like a bit of an anti-climax. You’re all ready to start a new chapter… but you’re still sitting at home, in the same chair, at the same desk.
This is where onboarding comes in. A remote employer should do everything they can to make you feel enthusiastic, welcome and confident in your new role. People working from home face specific challenges:
In the next few sections, we’ll talk about what to expect from virtual onboarding; how to get on with your new co-workers; and what to do if something goes wrong.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM ONLINE ONBOARDING
Some remote jobs will still encourage you to come into the office for a few days while you get started. But as employers get used to remote work – and employees take up jobs at even greater distances – online onboarding is becoming the standard.
That’s a good thing. It means that virtual onboarding is becoming a lot more streamlined. More companies are investing in onboarding software, which acts as a one-stop shop to sign paperwork, review training documents, and get reminders about essential tasks.
Virtual onboarding usually includes:
However, according to VisualCV, only 12% of employees say their company is great at onboarding. You’ll need to be proactive about asking for help and getting in touch with colleagues.
Remote work means trading in some benefits (such as easy networking and a clear work/home division) for others (such as more flexible hours). It’s up to you to make sure you’re not missing out. If there’s anything that you’re having problems with, or you feel you’ve missed out on introductions to the team, speak up.
Some remote-focused companies will give you a mentor or a remote buddy to help you settle into the company culture. Even if there isn’t a formal scheme like this in your new job, try to identify a “point person” who will be your go-to for any questions.
HOW TO BUILD CONNECTIONS WITH YOUR CO-WORKERS
Many people love remote work for its independence. But especially at the start of a new job or project, you’ll need to connect with your co-workers for support, ideas, and advice. You can help to build positive connections by being friendly and proactive.
Use quick communication channels like Slack or Discord to say hi and check in with people. Some teams will have dedicated channels set up for socialising outside of specific work discussions.
Include friendly greetings in your emails. This might seem like a basic point, but some people do write very short, business-focused messages. It only takes a few extra seconds to be sociable.
Be ready to introduce yourself quickly on video calls – with a bit of personality! “I’m the new assistant, I’m based in Dundee and I like knitting in my spare time” is a lot more memorable and engaging than just saying “hello everyone”.
You could also ask if your company has any regular social calls scheduled. For example, some remote offices have a “morning fifteen minutes” where people dial in to drink coffee and chat before they start the day.
“At the last company I worked for, I really appreciated having a daily 10-minute sync about what we were getting up to, as well as weekly coffee chats” said one remote worker we spoke to. This is an easy way to get to know people outside your immediate team and pick up on the company culture.
Face-to-face meetings can also give you a chance to network, share ideas, and build more effective working relationships. These meet-ups don’t have to be frequent, but they are still an important part of a healthy remote team.
However, it’s worth remembering that people have good reasons for going remote: they may have responsibilities at home or live far from the office. If an employer is encouraging people to meet up in person, they should choose a time during working hours and offer travel expenses if required. That way, no one misses out.
WHAT TO DO IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG
However experienced you are, there will always be things to learn in a new job. And when you work remotely, it can seem harder to ask for help. Instead of just casually dropping past someone’s desk, you have to ring them up or write out a message.
But you should never feel shy about asking for help. In a company with a strong remote work culture, you should be encouraged to get in touch whenever you need to.
Right from the start, make sure you have contact details for your line manager and HR department, as well as information about when exactly they’re available. (This is especially important if they work on a flexible schedule or in a different time zone.)
It’s better to collect this information now rather than scrambling to find it in an emergency. If you have a mentor or remote buddy, chat to them early on and find out how they prefer to communicate – a weekly call? Regular emails? Live chat?
You can also look outside your new job for a support network. There’s a strong community of remote workers online who can cheer you on with advice and encouragement. Here are a few places to start:
Check out local Meetup groups to see if there are any remote work groups near you. They may run regular coffee mornings or co-working sessions. If there isn’t anything near you, why not start a group?
There may be remote working or work-from-home groups for your area on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Look for other remote workers in your location or industry on Twitter. Hashtags like #remotework and #wfh are a good place to start.
Join groups and newsletters for your industry. Even if you can’t meet up in person, you can still keep up with the latest news and network online.
With the right support system in place, you’ll be able to enjoy all the upsides of remote work.