Remote Employee Onboarding: These 7 Tips Will Set You Up for Success
Let’s talk about remote employee onboarding. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
Successfully onboarding to a new remote job takes time, effort, and patience. Especially those working in their first remote job.
Those who have spent a career going into an office, or physical work environment, are used to getting a tour of the company office space or building, meeting people, and making small talk with co-workers and everyone they come across, within or outside of their department. They can also set up their space and slowly get comfortable in the new setting. They can mingle with co-workers or go to lunch with new teammates to get to know each other and learn more about the company. They slowly get acclimated to the new surroundings while also learning a new job.
But it’s a completely different world when onboarding to a new remote job, especially for those working their first remote job.
Remote onboarding is now done through email, Slack, Teams, WebEx, Zoom, or other technology tools. Instead of office tours and face-to-face interactions, new employees learn about processes and procedures, develop relationships with co-workers, and work with their managers from virtual environments.
Remote onboarding also often includes spending time watching training videos or reviewing training documentation. This can mean several hours without human interaction. For some, this process can feel distant, and less welcoming, and is a major adjustment. For others, the opportunity to work on their own, but within a virtual team environment, is the opportunity they’ve long desired.
Onboarding Tips for Today’s Virtual Workforce
No matter one’s preference or experience, there are several steps remote workers can take to successfully onboard to a remote job. Here are some tips to make that transition:
Tip 1: Create a Routine
One of the most important things for any job seeker starting their first remote job is to create a routine. Plan how you’re going to work and keep motivated while at home, says Ian Wright, Managing Director of Business Financing, a business finance and lending research and information publisher.
“It may sound obvious that you need a daily working plan, it’s better to think of this as a regime of how you’re going to plan your remote working day,” says Wright. “What you don’t want to do is get side-tracked by doing chores around the house, or waste time at the start of the day deciding which room you’re going to work from.”
Wright suggests planning out the room you’ll work from and when you’ll break for lunch. Additionally, it’s important to “plan your post-work activities so that you’re not working past allocated hours.” When you don’t physically have to leave work, it can be very easy to work long past your scheduled time.
Tip 2: Read, Review, and Follow Training Documents
If you are onboarding remotely for the first time, becoming familiar with and following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is crucial, says Mike Walsh, CEO of Cloud My Biz, a cloud-based technology solution that specializes in streamlining for alternative and construction lenders.
“It’s obvious when somebody hasn’t fully engaged with their training documents, and not only is it frustrating for the person onboarding you, having to go through everything repeatedly, but it is also obvious, and can leave a bad first impression,” says Walsh.
Jump into those training documents, use them, and reference them as needed. While long-time employees may no longer use these resources, the company has them for a reason. Referencing, following, and asking questions about the documentation is a good way to become familiar with company-wide processes and procedures, and also shows your new manager and teammates that you are using and following material provided to you. This will give a good first impression and show strong attention to detail.
Tip 3: Be Available During Required Hours
Most managers want one thing from new employees working remote jobs: They want them to be available when needed.
This seems obvious, right?
But that’s not always the case for remote workers who struggle to separate home from work and vice versa.
It’s important to remember this is a job, and just because you are remote (which is home for most of today’s remote workers), doesn’t mean you should be unavailable because you stepped away from your computer to do laundry, mow the lawn, or run errands. No, you don’t have to be glued to your computer an entire workday but use the communication tools (Jabber, Slack, or others) to show if you are away, on a call, in a meeting, or unavailable for a period of time.
“The number one frustration for employers regarding remote work is being unable to reach their remote employee when they need to,” says Matthew Jones, a recruiter at VIP Staffing, a staffing agency with locations in Texas and New Mexico.
“When employers can’t reach their employees, they’re left to make assumptions, usually not good assumptions, and the trust your boss has for you begins to erode,” says Jones.
He has this advice for first-time remote workers: “Set your core hours with your boss on day one and commit to them; these are hours of the day that they can count on being able to reach you with 100% surety. It won’t take long, assuming you stick with your core hours, for your boss to notice you haven’t ever missed their calls, which builds trust.”
Tip 4: Get to Know the Organization and How It Works
The best way to get comfortable at work is to understand the business and the best way to understand the business is to get familiar with the roles and responsibilities of each person on the organizational chart, says Nola Simon, a Hybrid/Remote Work Futurist at Nola Simon Advisory.
“Business acumen can help you stand out from other new hires,” says Simon.
“During the pandemic, the bridges between different areas of organizations narrowed. This affects knowledge transfer and relationships. If you can position yourself as someone who can proactively build relationships to help the business reduce silos and improve knowledge sharing, you make yourself valuable.”
Building relationships can help remote workers feel welcomed faster, and that can play a major role in a new employee’s ability to feel like they fit in.
“There is no better time to build relationships than when you first start working for a company,” says Simon. “It’s the perfect opportunity to ask questions and meet people.”
Tip 5: Network With Your New Team and Co-Workers
Take the time to reach out to your co-workers. Not just those on your team, but others in the organization. These employees were also once new, and they could also have tips and strategies not only for how to onboard successfully, but also how to set expectations, fit in, and ultimately succeed in your new remote role.
“Too many remote workers assume that there is little need to connect with everyone during their first couple of weeks, but they couldn’t be more wrong,” says Rob Reeves, CEO and President of Redfish Technology, a company specializing in building growth-mode tech companies with handpicked talent, nationwide. “If you don’t reach out and introduce yourself, you’ll likely remain as nothing more than a name in a company-wide email. While you don’t need to write more than a few lines of introduction, sending out a personalized email to everyone in your department is worthwhile.”
Treat your new remote role like a professional networking opportunity.
“When onboarding, whether remote or not, it’s important to focus on relationship building—listening, observing, and being curious,” says Amber Macbeth, Executive and Leadership Coach at Amber Macbeth Coaching & Development.
“When someone shifts from trying to prove their worth, knowledge, or skill set they open room to establish relationships that will serve them beyond showing how ‘good’ or valuable they are. Make sure to connect with your leader, direct reports, coworkers, and other key members of the organization in a 1:1 space. Keep it fun and personal rather than all about business, that’s important when establishing and building relationships.”
Tip 6: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
“Starting a new remote job can be a challenging experience but rest assured: You don’t have to do everything on your own,” says Max Wesman, Chief Operating Officer of GoodHire, a silicon valley-based technology company that provides background checks and employment screening services.
“Though you might be working within the confines of your home instead of an office space, your line manager and colleagues are still there to support you if you ever find yourself struggling,” says Wesman.
Even with the best onboarding process, you might still have questions about training, equipment, or team members. Wesman continues, “In a kind, supportive workplace, your colleagues will be only too glad to help out. Don’t feel guilty about asking too much, and get into the habit of reaching out whenever you have concerns. Integrating with your team in this way gives you a clearer understanding of what is expected of you, what you need to work on, and how to overcome the hurdles that you’re facing. This helps you fully relax into your role with complete confidence in your abilities.”
Tip 7: Communicating With Co-Workers is Key
Since you won’t be physically present at the office, you won’t be able to casually pop over to your manager or co-workers’ desk to ask a question. As a result, you should take the initiative to learn as much as possible about your position and the responsibilities that come with it from a remote perspective.
“The best way to stay on top of things is to regularly check in with your supervisors and ask questions about any new systems or tools you should be learning how to use, as well as any upcoming project deadlines or catch-up meetings,” says Becca Klein, a business coach, and podcaster who specializes in helping bloggers build their blog and business.
Be prepared to interact more with your manager, team, and co-workers during the first weeks and months on the job. Look at this as an opportunity to learn versus micromanaging. In time, you will likely get into a flow, and be able to “just do your job” but for now, relish the opportunity to communicate and learn with and from other remote co-workers.
“It’s natural for your manager to want to keep tabs on how you’re doing during your first few weeks on the job,” says Klein. “Rather than taking this as a reflection of how well you’re performing, though, you should welcome the extra attention and use it to your advantage.”
3 keys to successfully onboarding into a new remote job
Antonella Pisani is CEO and founder of the digital agency Eyeful Media, an Inc. 5000 company. She started her agency five years ago based on the concept of working remotely. Her team is fully remote with team members located in 16 states and 23 cities across the USA.
Pisani provided these 3 keys to successfully onboarding into a new remote job:
- Schedule short daily meetings to touch base with your manager for the first week. These meetings can ensure you are getting plenty of “face” time with them and provide an easy way to get your questions answered.
- Be proactive about scheduling short “get to know you” meetings with colleagues and direct reports. Building relationships quickly is important because there’s a lack of body language and “tone” in much of the communication that happens in the remote world. People will read Slack messages and emails in a more dry or direct way until they get to know your personality and can read between the lines.
- Assume that you may be more responsible for getting yourself up to speed than in a traditional office environment. Ensure you know where to find digital files and who you should go to for help with software that you’re required to use
Remote work red flags
Red flags during remote work include managers or others in the organization not respecting boundaries for when you’re off work.
“Remote should not equal 24/7 unless you’ve explicitly agreed to that,” says Pisani. “I usually let people know that I catch up at night and on weekends but am not expecting a response outside of working hours.”
In addition, keep an eye on the types of interactions happening on Slack and other communication tools.
- Do people write to each other in a respectful manner?
- Does it seem like everything is a fire drill?
“That can clue you into the culture and whether the organization is functional or dysfunctional,” says Pisani.
More Remote Work Onboarding Tips to Consider
Pisani added these additional tips for workers onboarding to a remote job for the first time:
- Similar to any job, ask for specific feedback from your manager, peers, and direct reports.
- Find out how your manager wants to receive updates and make sure to over-communicate a bit (but, in an organized and thoughtful way).
- Take time to plan out your work and schedule time to complete tasks on your calendar. This shows others that you are organized and disciplined, which also provides others with a sense of confidence.
- Find out what time zone most of the team is in if it’s a business that has people working in multiple states. Being online during “core” hours with the team will help facilitate communication.
With a little planning and thought, you can successfully onboard to a remote job, even if you’ve never worked out of the office before. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert remote employee.
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