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Virtual onboarding tips and challenges: advice from HowNow’s remote joiners

Don’t underestimate the draw of an extra hour in bed or fewer commutes every week! Even after a year of working from home, 89% still want to continue with some kind of remote arrangement moving forward. The novelty really hasn’t worn off – even with the prospect of team lunches, face-to-face meetings and after-work drinks on the horizon as the UK begins to open up in April 2021 (the same month that this statistic appeared in an article).

That’s all well and good for your existing employees who’ve settled in, but what about any newbies? For the past year, they’ve had to tackle the process entirely remotely – but with hybrid working looking like the most popular option moving forward, they’ll still find themselves at home and independently learning the role in their first few months. 

So, you’ve really got to consider what your onboarding strategy looks like for remote teams moving forward in the era of hybrid working. Luckily, the HowNow team is here to share their personal experiences with you.

Meet HowNow’s remote onboarders

Remote Onboarding Tips From The HowNow Team

We added quite a few new faces to the HowNow team over the past 12 lockdown-filled months, and that meant a lot of remote onboarding and little to no face-to-face contact for some of the team. So, we asked some of them to share their advice for building relationships remotely, tackling the challenges they faced when joining from home and enjoying the process – all in the spirit of shared knowledge, right?

Hopefully, our tips can help you build a remote onboarding process that your new people enjoy just as much as our temporarily remote HowNow team members did.

How to prepare yourself and overcome the challenges of onboarding remotely

Jack: Research! All those questions and small things you’d pick up when working around others – like hearing them talk amongst themselves, or just passing comments about the work they’re doing – there’s none of that, no colleagues, no little things to passively pick up.

So, really analyse the role you’re in, what you may need to know and get ahead of it. It’s a conscious effort to make sure you stay on top of everything, even without that subconscious context that you gain from working around other humans. 

Nikita: You’re finding yourself in a new job and new environment, with a new product and loads of questions – and you’re on your own! It can get lonely and a little overwhelming but use your team as much as possible, especially if they are offering a helping hand, and ask them the questions you need answering.

Lucy: HOLD ON IN THERE! It is a slightly strange experience, but you will meet your team very soon with things lifting or looking like they will in the near future. Also, don’t be scared to ask questions, even if they feel silly – I’m sure other people would’ve asked the same questions. It can feel quiet not being with your team and it can sometimes make you feel like you are not contributing much but know that it will soon come.

Abdul: The first thing is that you should make sure you have a good internet connection, the second is to be prepared for continuous Zoom meetings!

Alfie: Use the distance to your advantage! One of the best things I managed to do was take a step back and absorb the new things I had to learn at a pace that worked for me. Also, ask questions – you’re the new person after all. Just because you can’t ask someone by leaning over a desk, doesn’t mean you should be shy. They’re expecting you to ask questions!

Gelling with the team feels more challenging when you’re only able to see them a few times a week, but this was a transitory experience rather than an ongoing one. Perhaps the step away from being around your colleagues all the time is a blessing in that you’re able to both engage at your own pace and thus form more significant relationships.

Ashok: Make sure you’ve got access to reliable internet and set up a proper working environment. Prepare your personal laptop as well, just in case your office laptop stops working at some point.

Gary: Think about what you can do ahead of time. I’d always recommend researching the company, getting a feel for their content or tone of voice, and familiarising yourself with the product, but it can truly help you hit the ground running remotely!

Remote onboarding naturally means fewer touchpoints and a sense of awkwardness in asking too many questions, but prepping before day one means you’ll inherently ask more important questions because you’ve already got to grips with the basics.

Ashish: Always test your microphone and internet before connecting to calls!

How to make connections and build relationships remotely

Jack: Be fully you – there’s already enough smoke and mirrors in spending less time with your team, general distance, and of course Wi-Fi dropouts taking half your sentences! So, make up for it by diving in fully and letting everyone know what you’re about unapologetically – at least they’ll feel they know what you’re truly about. In the end, that is all socialising should be about – getting to know what, why and how someone else lives!

Nikita: We have a Happy Hour Social on a Thursday, which has been great and those run alongside the Good Morning HowNow catch ups on a Monday and Friday. So from a peer-to-peer point of view, make sure you’re setting some time aside to chat as a team without talking shop.

Lucy: Just be yourself! Also, make the most of Zoom meetings and getting to know your team via video calls as it’s the norm for now!

Alfie: Don’t take yourself too seriously. This is a good tip for all people in all aspects of life anyway, but when you have the opportunity to let people see you as a person (especially remotely) then you form better relationships.

Ashok: Try to connect with the team at least twice a week and test out some fun activities while you do it.

Gary: Don’t try to force things. There’s a temptation sometimes to overcompensate for the fact you’re not seeing people in person – but be patient, over time you will start to build up the hours and interactions that form connections and relationships with people. You want it to feel natural, so act natural!

Abdul: Coffee catchup/Donuts are a good thing for meeting other people working remotely, it gives you a chance to interact and I really think it should be mandatory.

What did the team enjoy about working remotely?

Jack: The smoother work/Life balance that’s forming – no week off immediately turns into travelling three hours a day with tubes and people etc. – which can be quite overwhelming and throw a new starter off a little. Remotely onboarding lets you focus all that energy on the job and not the travel!

Nikita: After just immigrating from South Africa, I am still trying to find my feet in the UK. The job position was for London but with remote onboarding – so I was given a great opportunity that I could take even though I wasn’t currently in the city where the office is based.

Lucy: Our Monday/Friday “Good Morning” events. It has really made me feel great getting to know the team and I genuinely enjoy our conversations and what everybody brings to the team.

Alfie: Being able to learn remotely at my own pace, and feel comfortably distant from the rest of the team.

Gary: A chance to focus, especially if there’s an opportunity for you to make the role your own – that sense of forced autonomy can motivate you to take initiative, come up with ideas, bring them to the table and take ownership. In the office, you might be tempted to lean on others a little too much.

If you want to know a bit more about the HowNow team, pop over to our About Us page! Or head here to discover how we can help you onboard and develop your remote employees.

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