You did it. In fact, you knocked it out of the park. You aced your interview, impressed the hiring manager and landed an awesome new job (during a pandemic no less!). Your first day is right around the corner and you should be celebrating, but instead you’re stressing – and we’re pretty sure we know why.

Two words: remote onboarding.

In a world where working from home has become the norm, there’s a good chance you’ll be completing the onboarding process without ever stepping foot in the office. And, while some aspects of working from home are appealing (the non-existent commute, hanging out with your cat all day, the close proximity to your well-stocked snack cupboard), others are, frankly, pretty daunting – especially for a new hire.

Luckily, this whole thing is weird for everyone, not just you. If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s how to adapt to changing circumstances and get creative with the way we work. So, while tech problems and awkward introductions may be inevitable, you can still make a great (virtual) impression and hit the ground running in your new role.

Success starts here

Before your first day, spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of this opportunity, and set some initial short term and long-term goals for yourself.

You’ll also want to make sure you’ve touched base with your employer and that you’re clear on what you can expect during the onboarding process, for example:

  • How and when will you receive technology and supplies?
  • When will they give you access to company systems?
  • What time does the workday begin?
  • Who should you report to on your first day? Do you have contact information for this person?
  • What are the dress code expectations for remote employees?
  • What should you expect on your first day?

Understanding what’s to come will do wonders for settling your nerves and helping you feel prepared for your first day.

Communication and feedback

When you’re working from home, your manager can’t just glance over and see you typing away at your desk like they could at the office, so communicating regularly is extra important.

One-to-one meetings are a great way to touch base, providing a platform for you to ask questions and to keep your manager in the loop with what you’ve recently completed, what you’re working on currently and what you have coming up.

Make sure you have a check-in scheduled over your first couple weeks to have a conversation about initial expectations, your responsibilities and how success will be measured in your new role.

Coming out of this meeting, you should have a good understanding of:

  • Your role within the organization
  • Your training schedule
  • The person or people you can reach out to with questions regarding training and onboarding in general
  • Daily tasks and responsibilities
  • Your initial projects or assignments, as well as due dates and how these should be submitted

If you’re unclear on anything at all, now’s the time to ask about it. During these chats, request specific feedback. This will give you a good idea of how you’re doing so far, what’s going well and help you identify areas where you’ve still got some learning to do.

Fess up about what’s been challenging

Naturally, you hope everything goes swimmingly – your coworkers adore you, your training goes off without a hitch and your boss is already singing your praises by the end of your first week. However, be aware that this may not be the case, and that’s okay.

Be patient with yourself and be open with your manager about aspects of the onboarding process you’ve found challenging. You could find you’re a bit overwhelmed by the training schedule, or maybe you’re having a tough time getting the hang of a new software.

Understanding your experience allows your employer to refine their remote onboarding process, and helps your manager provide you with the support you need to be successful.

Introductions (and re-introductions)

In an office setting, you’d meet people organically. In addition to being marched around the floor and formally introduced, you’d pass your coworkers in the hallway and say a quick hello, or exchange introductions while in line for the coffee machine. The next day, maybe you’d chat in the elevator, or while you’re heating up leftovers in the lunchroom, and, in that way, become familiar with one another pretty quickly.

Working from home, it takes a bit more work to engage with your peers and requires you to be more intentional with your efforts to connect. So try not to take it to heart if your coworkers seem to keep forgetting you exist, just reintroduce yourself (as many times as necessary).

For the first few days, remind everyone who you are, why you’re there and what your role is. If you have something to contribute, don’t be afraid to join in the discussion.

If you’re up for it, see if some of your colleagues would be open to sitting down with you for a quick virtual coffee break. This may sound awkward, and frankly, it could be – but it’s a really great way to learn about one another, and find out more about their priorities, projects and role within the company.

Watch, listen and learn

When it comes to understanding company culture, team dynamics, communication styles and office politics, the answers you seek won’t be found in a training manual.

During your first days and weeks on the job, focus on actively listening in meetings, taking notes and absorbing everything you can about the company’s mission, goals, projects and priorities – as well as your colleagues.

To be clear, we aren’t encouraging you to start sleuthing around, unearthing gossip about who had a few too many at last year’s office Christmas party. Instead, we encourage you to pay close attention to the way your coworkers interact with one another:

  • Is their communication style casual, or more professional?
  • Do they joke around and make small talk at the start of the morning meeting, or do they get right down to business?
  • Do they use slang in internal emails, or keep their communication quite professional?
  • Are emails or Slack messages used for quick questions?
  • Is video on or off for Zoom meetings?
  • Do they have scheduled or impromptu check-ins?
  • Is it taboo to hit ‘Reply All’ on a company email?
  • And what about emojis – are they a go or a heck no?

Being new, no one expects you to just inherently know the best way to communicate with your team – so if you’re unsure, go ahead and ask how they prefer you reach out.

Got questions?

We’ll tell you right now, your boss probably doesn’t have time to answer the dozens of questions you’ll have in your first few days – and nor should you expect them to. Instead, ask your manager who you should approach with day-to-day queries.

Once you’ve been pointed in the right direction, connect with this person to introduce yourself and check that it’s alright with them for you to reach out as you get settled into your role. While it’s highly unlikely they’ll say no, don’t assume they have the time (or the desire) to be your designated problem-solver.

When they give you the go-ahead, do your part to minimize interruptions to your colleague’s workday. Instead of peppering them with new questions every ten minutes, try making a list of things you’d like clarification on and waiting until you have a few things written down to ask for assistance.

Build a sense of community

The initial introductions are behind you, and most of your colleagues even know your name by this point, which you consider a win. Now it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to continue to build on those connections and help them grow into the buds of genuine relationships.

(Before you answer, we’ll remind you that studies have shown people who have friends at work are happier in their jobs).

So, how do you build a sense of community and become pals with people you may never meet face-to-face? Simple: join in.

Push past the inevitable awkwardness and join your colleagues for Zoom happy hour. Join your team for a virtual coffee break. Agree to participate in the optional company game night. If your organization doesn’t have any virtual events planned, you can always suggest something informal, like a casual after-work get together.

It doesn’t so much matter what you’re doing, just that you’re doing it. Show up and be yourself.

Three cheers for you!

Now, let’s celebrate what you’ve already accomplished – landing a great new job. Give yourself a pat on the back, or do one better and mark the occasion by popping a bottle of bubbly, buying a cute new plant or two for your home office or hopping onto Skip the Dishes and ordering from your favourite sushi place.

Remember, your employer is lucky to have you – that’s why they hired you, right? Good luck!

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