Everyone and their mother is working from (the same) home. COVID-19 has normalized a widespread work-from-home business model, and all-virtual employees are only becoming more common. Remote work is by no means a new occurrence, but for many companies and employees, it is.
One unique aspect of this work-from-home era is the onboarding process. I became Modthink’s first remote employee in late March, right after COVID-19 sent everyone home for the foreseeable future. Since I was hired, we hired five more Modthinkers. With remote work being the plan for the near future, we must add onboarding to the list of remote tasks that we need to excel in virtually.
Tips for being onboarded virtually
As Modthink’s first 100-percent-remote hire, I am uniquely situated to offer some tips for both people who are new remote hires and people who are in charge of onboarding.
1. You cannot ‘fake it ‘till you make it.’ At least, not this time.
Even when companies aren’t remote, new employees are encouraged to ask questions. This is even more imperative when you’re being onboarded remotely.
No one knows what normal looks like for you, so you can’t expect your new coworkers to read your mind–especially during Zoom calls.Ask questions about who you should report to, who has the most similar job to you, and who you should direct questions to. Push past the discomfort of annoying people with questions. Setting clear expectations will keep you from hurting later on.
Plus, it can be embarrassing if you have to ask a simple question way further down the road.
2. Take advantage of screen time with coworkers by taking initiative.
It is hard to find your footing at any new job, but it is especially difficult to do this when you’re remote because, to be honest, it is way easier for people to forget that you exist.
Don’t expect work to fall into your lap. Volunteer to lean in on other projects. It can be uncomfortable to insert yourself into projects, but your coworkers will appreciate your willingness to help.
3. Don’t load your plate up too fast.
When starting any job, it’s natural to want to impress everyone and confirm the decision to hire you.
But being remote can make it even more difficult to exceed expectations and feel that your hard work is being noticed. As tempting as it is to offer help and say yes to every task thrown your way, be careful to not overextend yourself.
Of course, it’s better to take on too much than not enough—although some might fight me on that. But there comes a point when you’re doing more harm than good if you keep being a yes-man.
You’ll want to prove you are the best remote employee ever, but be patient. People will notice if your work quality is low, and they won’t be impressed by your inability to prioritize and manage your workload. Always shoot for quality over quantity.
Tips to create a seamless and welcoming onboarding process
We all know people perform better when they enjoy their job and have a sense of belonging. But when all of your coworkers already know each other and you won’t be meeting them any time soon, it can be difficult to find your place, especially within the team’s culture. It is in every team member’s best interest to provide a warm, inclusive environment for new employees.
1. Inclusivity is key.
It is impossible to like a job you don’t feel welcome to. Remote onboarding can make new hires feel like more of an outsider than they would in the office.
It is difficult to get to know new coworkers, and it can be challenging to speak up in virtual team-building meetings when a rapport has already been established between coworkers.
I appreciated being called on in meetings and knowing people wanted to hear how I was doing–both at work and in my personal life.
Overall, make it clear you want new hires to succeed and that you’re on the same team.
2. Communicate who the new employee should direct questions to.
The act of question-asking is entirely different when employees aren’t in the office.
Pre-quarantine, if a new employee had a question, they could simply lean over to a coworker’s desk.
Now, you have to hop into a Zoom meeting or shoot a text, and oftentimes new employees won’t even know where to direct their question.
Explain who the new employee should go to with each kind of question, and be clear about what is expected of them. The onboardee should know how and when to speak up if their plate is getting too full or who to talk to about task prioritization.
3. Communicate priorities.
This tip is applicable in a few different ways. First, make sure new employees understand what your company prioritizes and that they are valued outside of working hours.
Modthink has a priority pyramid that is taught to every new employee. If we don’t follow this pyramid, everything crumbles:
- You and your family
- School (if you’re an intern)
Modthinkers wear a number of different hats and our agile methodology forces us to be nimble. Each team member is on a number of different projects and has a plethora of tasks to complete at any given time.
If your company is similar to Modthink with a lot going on at once, be sure to talk through task prioritization with new employees. Direct them to a superior who can help with prioritization moving forward.
Embrace this new normal, and lead with empathy.
Some of us are thrilled to be working at home, and others can’t wait to be back in the office. Regardless, remote onboarding is not going away anytime soon. We have no choice but to play the cards we are dealt to the best of our abilities.
New employees and those in charge of onboarding must both understand that the other party is in unfamiliar territory. If both parties follow these tips and lead with empathy, the company will benefit and employees will enjoy the work they are doing.