Working from home: Five ways to make remote workers feel supported

Starting a new job in the middle of a lockdown is a challenge. Use these five tips to help new employees that are starting remotely to feel supported in their roles.

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The coronavirus pandemic has added an additional layer of complexity to recruiting, with businesses now being forced to onboard new starters remotely with whatever digital tools they have at their disposal. It's tricky for new employees too, who now have to learn the ropes of a company and the people they'll be working with at the end of a computer, often without having set foot in the office of having met their co-workers face to face.

Remote onboarding can be done effectively, though additional considerations need to be made to ensure new starters are properly integrated and feel confident in their decision to join the company. 

Some of these are fairly straightforward, others require more conscious planning and forethought ahead of their first day on the job. Here, we've outline five ways you can make new remote starters feel welcome and supported in their roles.

SEE: Virtual hiring tips for job seekers and recruiters (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Introduce them to the team

It seems like an obvious one, but given that the traditional office meet-and-greet is no longer a viable option, it's even more important that new employees have ample opportunity to get to know the people they'll be working with.

Video offers the closest resemblance to an in-person introduction, so schedule time early on in their first day for necessary Zoom/ Skype/Teams meetings with their immediate team. Keep things informal to avoid making your new hire feel like they are holding a presentation – this is as much about giving them a chance to get to know the personalities they'll be working alongside as it is helping them understand the role they'll be playing in the wider business.

SEE: Video meetings are awful. Try these five tips to make them better for everyone (TechRepublic)

2. Help them settle in

Virtual inductions and orientation sessions should be as useful and comprehensive as they would if your new employees were starting in an office – albeit without guiding them to the toilets and explaining how the coffee machine works. This should involve a phone call or video meeting early on in which line managers welcome them to the company, outline the expectations for the roles on a day-to-day basis, as well as providing an opportunity for new employees to ask any questions they might have.

At the same time, new hires should be given the contact details for all the necessary business departments they might need – HR, payroll and IT support, for example – so that they know who to go to for help. Give them time to get familiar with the various systems and process that are in place – it's easy to take for granted how many technical and administrative hurdles new employees face – and make sure they know how to access essential workplace policy.

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3. Make sure they have the equipment they need – before their first day

With the vast majority of employees now working from home, businesses have a lot less oversight on the devices that employees are logging in to work from . That means they need to ascertain early on whether new starters have the necessary equipment and technology to work from home, and if not, get it out to them.

If this means you need to ship a laptop to them, make sure you do so before their start date. Not only does this mean they won't waste half the day waiting for the courier to show up – if they do at all – but it also means IT teams can run them through any necessary security and technical admin ahead of time, which will help them hit the ground running. This could also mean making sure they have all the necessary platforms and business tools the company uses in place ahead of time.

On top of this, give new starters a rough idea of how their first day will be structured so they know what to expect.

SEE: Top 100+ tips for telecommuters and managers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. Check in regularly

Regularly checking in with new employees is an important part of any induction process, however the coronavirus pandemic has created a unique set of circumstances for remote workers that require extra consideration.

Many of those working remotely are still struggling to adapt to the isolation from their colleagues. For new starters, the situation is particularly tough: in addition to experiencing the same frustrations as everyone else, people who are new to the company may have left close work relationships behind for their new job, and now face the tricky task of forming new ones over video calls and emails.

With that being the case, stay in regular touch with new starters so that they feel supported and assimilated with their team. Take time throughout the day to ask how they're getting on, whether they have any questions, and provide feedback on their work. Similarly, regular team catch-ups via video provide an opportunity for more authentic social interaction and a chance for colleagues to share what they've been up to.

SEE: Top 250+ tips for managing remote workers and working remotely (TechRepublic Premium)

5. Acknowledge it won't be easy

Above all else, keep in mind that it's not easy for anyone right now, and now more than ever a little patience goes a long way. Starting a new job is rarely plain sailing from the offset, and with the added complication of the coronavirus, businesses and their employees face a difficult time in keeping company culture alive and operations running smoothly. Accept that there will be bumps in the road, and you'll be less frustrated when things do inevitably do go wrong.

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