3 tips to successfully onboard in a remote environment

April 20, 2021

Throughout my career, I’ve been used to dense, urban environments, teeming with people and movement and action. An all-remote work environment couldn’t be any more different. Joining a company during the pandemic required me to exercise social and professional skills all while adjusting to remote interaction. For anyone onboarding in this unique, pandemic induced work environment, I want to highlight the importance of asking questions, participating beyond what is required, and finding unique ways to ‘knock on someone’s door.’

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Onboarding for a new role is a time for employees to learn as much as they can about their responsibilities. However, it’s just as important for new hires to get a feel for the day-to-day aspect of the remote work environment—such as operating norms and social tendencies. Asking questions is the only way to facilitate this process, even when rapid fire inquisition can feel tedious or bothersome. It’s expected that trainees need help logging hours, accessing platforms, and learning notetaking techniques.

While asking project leads or managers for help on the spot can work in some cases, it is also helpful to solicit feedback in other ways. Consider using one-on-one meetings to ask your manager for advice or input on how you handled a certain interaction. Each insight will help you to grow and learn for the next time that situation comes up. In addition to technical questions, don’t shy away from asking about the seemingly intuitive– like how to know when you’re done for the day or when cameras should be on vs. off with the client, etc. The onboarding experience is shaped by more than learning how to execute the job; it’s also about managing the everyday elements of working in a new setting.

2. Get involved!
While company culture is evident during regular meetings and project-based interactions, new employees can enhance their awareness by attending lunch and learns, social hours, virtual activities and lighter areas of common interest (like following popular sports or charity-driven events), non-mandatory trainings, and anything else that might be on the calendar. It is difficult to understand the culture of a place from behind a computer screen.

For new employees, increased involvement and participation is one of the most productive ways to truly immerse in a new environment. Non-required events often hint at what is important to a company and the people within it. Whether the event is purely informational or discussion based, any opportunity for a shared experience with coworkers can help newcomers to establish work friendships and demonstrate interest in building community. Once you get the gist of how things operate at your company, be generous with YOUR time to help with project or event teams. Don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult to break in at first—the offer to help will always be appreciated.

3. Short, targeted interactions can be valuable in creating a connection.
In an office building, many interactions start with knocking on someone’s office door. In a remote world, virtual interactions are the only method of getting to know coworkers. When most communication throughout the day is on Zoom, the idea of scheduling more face time can be draining. By using chat platforms to mimic a knock on someone’s office door, new employees can reach out to coworkers in a casual way that won’t perpetuate Zoom fatigue.

If you hear someone in a large team meeting mention experience with a client, project, technology, or something not work related that’s genuinely interesting to you, reach out and ask for input, advice or give a compliment. Asking someone for help or about their background is a great way to establish a connection. Also, people like recognition and if they ALREADY helped you to achieve something, then they are likely to welcome that input! If face time is preferred, you can also consider setting up short Zooms with a specific topic in mind. This way, you’re being respectful of your co-workers time and are more likely to make/strengthen a new connection.

In terms of managing retention rates and general employee satisfaction, finding ways to encourage interactions between co-workers is pivotal. Research shows that the likelihood of someone staying with their employer is directly correlated to how many friends they have at work. One study found that 60% of workers would be more inclined to stay with their employer if they had more friends at work. By asking questions, participating beyond expectations, and *virtually* knocking on someone’s office door, you’ll not only be better suited to do your job, but more tightly connected and satisfied with the company culture as well.