Onboarding remote workers involves embracing the virtuality of the process, providing the tools and information they need, and connecting them to your team and your company’s mission. Unlike onsite onboarding, remote onboarding allows the new employee to get to know the work without the presence of a watchful eye, to easily shadow other team members during virtual meetings or through screen recordings, and to continue working comfortably from their home in the same city or across the world.
Your remote onboarding process should embrace the reasons why people enjoy remote work in the first place. According to Small Biz Genius, 40% of remote workers think the greatest benefit is having a flexible schedule and 86% feel reduced stress levels when working remotely.
Relay a sense of excitement about the work they will be doing, get them started on small but important projects with soft deadlines, and help them feel a part of your company’s culture all from their own computer screen.
Best practices for onboarding remote workers
- Pre-boarding. Pre-boarding is everything you and your team prepare in order to bring a new employee on. This involves scheduling those initial meetings and creating agendas, setting up their company email and accounts to access your systems, and designating projects for them to start with. Setting them up from the start is like making sure an onsite worker’s office space is well equipped before their arrival.
- Onboard in groups. If you have several new remote workers joining your company, consider onboarding them in groups. Right off the bat, they will have peers they can turn to and share experiences with. This will also save you and your team time and energy.
- Aim to over-inform. Although being new to a company can already be overwhelming, most remote workers tend to feel under-informed. Having less on their plate right away may add to the feeling, and there isn’t the same downtime filled with office small talk. So don’t be afraid to lay on the resources, project and event calendar, contact lists, client testimonials, etc. to make sure they have the information they need at whatever pace they go.
- Shadowing. As aforementioned, shadowing online can be much less awkward, done during different time zones, and can build connections between veteran team members and rookies. Have the new employee shadow team members during virtual meetings as they work through live screen-sharing. Don’t forget to make some screen recordings for them to watch later and review what they’ve learned.
- Designate a mentor. Have someone on your team the new person can bond with, ask questions to, and turn to for support. They can be the newest person on your team or a long-time employee who serves as an example of your company’s growth potential. During their initial conversations, encourage the mentor to talk about how they moved up through the company and integrated quickly.
- Get them involved in important projects within the first few months. Putting them on important projects during their first few months will help them get to know the work, understand processes, and feel involved in your mission and company.
Remote Onboarding Checklist
Again, your plan for onboarding can set the pace, expectations, and standards for a remote worker. Here’s a checklist that outlines the steps you can take to make your remote onboarding process run smoothly:
- Plan for the remote onboarding
- Create or edit a standard operating procedure (SOP) document that you can refer to whenever onboarding remote workers.
- Schedule orientations and initial meetings with yourself and the rest of the team, and future check-in meetings.
- Get them the equipment they need
- Share your process for ordering or sending equipment with the new employee and also the process for returning the equipment should they leave your company.
- Create or update your technology and equipment inventory lists and who they are designated to.
- Share sentiments from the team
- Have those on the interview committee send an email to the new employee as to why they’re excited this person is joining the team.
- You can also send a pre-written welcome letter from a higher-up to inspire and express gratitude for deciding to join their company and mission.
- Hold an orientation
- Hold an inspiring and informative orientation before onboarding begins. This can be a time to share welcome videos by executives or client testimonials.
- Compile an agenda for their first several days
- Send this to them and anyone involved in their onboarding in advance
- Give them a small project to start
- Once you know a remote worker will need to be onboarded, decide what their first project will be. Aim to keep it small, but important nonetheless.
- Make a checklist of projects and action items for their first month
- Remember that over-informing is good. Give them appropriate projects that will train and inform them while also giving them autonomy.
- Have a system to respond to their questions
- To avoid a lot of emailing, designate a chat room or Google Doc for questions. This can be something all new and old employees can access and add to. Your team could benefit from knowing the types of questions someone new might have.
- Share your company calendar
- Include birthdays, work anniversaries, any celebrations, or virtual events that the new hire can look forward to and join.
- Send them any merchandise like t-shirts or stickers with your company logo to make it feel official!
Remember to have fun with your remote onboarding! Get creative and see what new things come to the table. Always have ongoing team building happening throughout the year so that there isn’t a decrease in contact once the onboarding ends. Check out our article on how to make remote work fun!