Remote Workforce Onboarding | Tips for Onboarding Remote Workers

A new employee’s first day — and the weeks that ensue — is a crucial moment that can determine how well they’ll go on to tackle the responsibilities of their new role. More broadly, it’s an opportunity for management to ensure the new hire understands and adapts to the company’s culture, which can increase overall employee satisfaction and retention rates. In traditional office spaces, the onboarding process usually includes an in-person presentation, desk-to-desk introductions, and a lunch where new hires can ask questions and get to know their team members. Onboarding remote workers can become a little tricker, but no less necessary.


From day one, it’s important to make sure employees feel like they’re part of a team, and integral to achieving a larger mission. Brud, a company focused on robotics, artificial intelligence, and their applications to media businesses (makers of the virtual influencer Lil Miquela) went fully remote in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, like many other companies across the world, has decided to remain remote moving forward. During the past six months, they’ve tweaked their in-office onboarding process to accommodate their new reality of telecommuting when hiring new team members.

 

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“Traditionally, I would do a welcome lunch in the conference room with all the new employees that have been brought on that month, walk them through the initial company pitch deck, talk about how we’ve been thinking of things in the last couple of quarters, and give them free time to ask any questions they may have,” said Trevor McFedries, co-founder and CEO of Brud. Now, the company gives new employees Postmates gift cards so they can order lunch, walks them through a Google Hangout of the deck, and sets up one-on-one Zoom meetings with other employees, especially those they won’t be working with, so they can get a feel for the culture without the everyday experience of walking through an office and getting to know people. 


For McFedries, tackling Brud’s remote onboarding process has had its benefits. “I think it’s requiring us to document and better articulate who we are, what we’re doing, and where we want to be,” he said. “A lot of those things are usually discussed in person and communicated via body language, but really being ruthless about having to be extra detail-oriented in the way we put things down on paper has actually made our team more aligned.” 


Here’s a useful checklist of things to consider when onboarding your remote workers. 

Make answering logistical questions easy and accessible 

First things first -- you’ll want to answer obvious questions before your new employee even has to ask. GitLab, the world’s largest all-remote company (with over 1,300 people working in dozens of different countries), believes that “documentation will be essential for a smooth onboarding process” when welcoming new, remote employees. In their guide to remote onboarding, they describe their ever-evolving, digital handbook, which employees can turn to for the answers to most of their questions, like “how do I sign up for benefits?,” or “who can help me with x or y?” 


Social introductions 

 

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In a traditional office space, figuring out who you gravitate towards is a process that happens gradually and unintentionally, as small talk with new coworkers in the break room or next to the coffee machine leads to discovering affinities. Strong and meaningful social bonds between coworkers are important, as they signal a strong company culture, and make for easier collaboration. When your entire company is remote, however, it’s important to be intentional about coworkers getting to know each other, beyond their job titles. The onboarding process is a great opportunity to ignite this. Here are some ways to go about it: 


  •  Having all new and current employees write a short paragraph introducing themselves, or answer a quick questionnaire focused on their personalities outside of their role in the company, is an easy way to kick off introductions. 

  •  Setting up personal Zoom calls between new employees and members of different departments will allow them to get a feel for the company structure, and familiarize themselves with different faces from the ones they’ll see on a weekly basis. 

  •  If possible, it’s a good idea to match each new employee with a mentor, someone who will welcome them via Zoom, check in on them periodically throughout their first weeks, and let them know that they’re there for them to answer any questions. 

Gradually dole out responsibilities 


When it comes to extending responsibilities to a new digital employee, it’s best to start small. Even if they’re logging into work from the comfort of their own home, the first few days of a job can feel unfamiliar and overwhelming, and you want to avoid creating a stressful mood from the go. “The first week of work at Brud is focused on introductions and small tasks that create quick wins for the new hire, so they can start easing into their role during week two,” said McFedries. 


In addition to easy-to-tackle initial projects, it’s important to be clear when communicating deadlines and any other specific expectation, as well as who the new employee can turn to if they have a question during the process. These initial responsibilities will not only allow the new employee to build confidence and begin to take on bigger tasks, but also serve as a great way for them to receive positive feedback and build a sense for how the team collaborates together. 


Let them know you’ve got their back — literally 


The fact that your team is working from home as opposed to commuting to one shared space every day is no excuse for being negligent about the basic health and safety protocols of a traditional office. Forgoing an office lease will yield considerable savings for the company, and it’s important for a portion of that to be invested back into the workspaces of your telecommuting team. You wouldn’t ask everyone to bring a chair from their dining room to work on at the office, the same way you wouldn’t ask them to buy their own ergonomic equipment there. As the world embraces remote work, it’s crucial for companies to also embrace more responsibility regarding the workspaces their employees will be performing from at home. 


Living up to your company values should be a constant goal within your company, and part of it is letting all new remote employees know that their wellbeing is a top priority, and that they’re not expected to either work from unsuitable home furniture or pay for a decent workstation out of pocket. You ergonomically furnish an office and take care of the whole space so that your employees can focus on their work, safely. You need to have the same mindset once you pivot to remote. 


See how GroWrk can significantly improve your remote team onboarding, handle remote health and safety compliance so you don’t have to, and set your entire team up with the premium ergonomic workstations and services best suited for their needs. 

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