Today's new hires start work in dramatically unusual circumstances. In the middle of a pandemic, they step into their new role and company virtually–from their home office, not through the corporate lobby. Instead of an in-person welcome from HR and handshakes with their team, they start off by sitting in front of their computer, with their family just a few steps away. Laptops and paperwork will be shipped to them—not handed over. Introductions to colleagues take place on video calls.


72% of companies expect to take a phased approach to reopening their offices.

—CBRE Survey


This extraordinary process can be both daunting and gratifying. And, it's likely to be the norm for some time to come. According to a recent CBRE survey, 72% of companies expect to take a phased approach to reopening their offices. Meanwhile, 52% will give employees the option to work from home indefinitely. This means virtual onboarding plans have become more important than ever, along with the need to make them as effective and seamless as the in-person approaches they replace.


52% [of companies] will give employees the option to work from home indefinitely.

—CBRE Survey


To succeed, these onboarding strategies must be designed specifically for the remote work environment. HR should consider how it can adapt—and improve upon—steps that previously occurred face-to-face.

According to employees themselves, these are the keys to tailoring the onboarding experience for the world of remote work.


Fully equipped before the first day

A lot of upfront work happens before new hires arrive for their first day. Adapting this part of the process to anticipate remote work sets a positive tone right off the bat. If they're equipped with the tools they need–such as a laptop and access to corporate systems—in advance of their start date, employees begin their new role well-prepared.

"I had no idea how I was going to start a new job in a new industry, in a completely different work environment," says Keaton Kavanagh, who joined Mitel early in the pandemic as a business development representative based in the UK. "This feeling of being anxious soon went away because I was sent a very nice laptop with headphones and a charger. To be honest, it looked rather flashy!"

Ergonomics can be as important as equipment, even outside of the corporate office. So, HR should plan to provide supplies and furniture that will help new employees transform space at home into workable offices. Consider whether your new hires need desks, chairs, extra screens and supplies such as notebooks and paper.

Collaboration tools such as shared digital workspaces and online learning also accelerate the new employees' ramp-up speed. They help newcomers familiarize themselves more quickly with the company overall, including policies and products. They also help workers enhance their professional skill sets at their own pace.


Dive into our ultimate guide to managing remote workers >


Building relationship from day one

With so much to learn in the first few weeks, new recruits must act quickly to build strong relationships with their teammates and others across the organization. In this kind of situation, first impressions are critical. A simple video call can get both parties through that initial, awkward stage much more easily.

Managers can kickstart relationships by making introductions and inviting new hires to a variety of meetings. The meetings, in particular, will immerse them in all aspects of the business, helping them come up to speed quickly and make the critical connections they need throughout the company.

“I’ve been introduced to everyone I need to be working closely with via MiTeam Meetings,” says new Mitel Senior Marketing Specialist, Jeyda Karamehmet. “Two months in the role, I’ve now found a good working balance and have adjusted to remote working.”

Assigning a mentor also speeds up the transition, because they'll help new employees navigate the "soft" person-to-person side of the company. Through frank video conversations, for example, Keaton's mentor guided him through company practices and systems, and also shared insights into who held relevant institutional knowledge.

"He's someone I can talk to about anything in a safe environment without it going any further," says Keaton.


Check out our guide to managing NEW remote workers >


Managing teams from home

For newly hired managers, the most important task is to get to know their team. Working remotely can be a formidable obstacle to achieving that goal.

Matthew Robinson, a business development manager for International at Mitel, remembers that settling in with his team was a challenge."I've enjoyed getting to know the team, but personally I'd rather be in the office with them," he says. "I believe as humans we learn from seeing and hearing others do what they do." He believes the lack of visibility—unavoidable during the pandemic–has slowed his progress and put him at a disadvantage.

However, technology has helped him bridge the gap. Using MiCollab, Matthew's been able to spend quality time with his team members, allowing him to get a good handle on their activities and strengths and weaknesses. Jeyda says MiCollab has been paramount in enabling her to stay connected to her team.

“I get a lot done and communicate with the international team effectively given the difference in time zones,” she says. “The communication solutions Mitel has in place puts us in a very good position to work remotely in a seamless way.”


Adjusting to remote work

Beyond learning the details of their position, new hires must also learn how to work remotely. Ironically, they can't do it alone. It's up to their managers and HR leaders to set the tone and ensure all employees understand the ground rules.

One benefit of remote work is that there are fewer interruptions. However, without office distractions, employees at home tend to work long stretches without breaks. Managers should be clear about what's expected and encourage healthy habits. But employees need to be willing to heed that advice—especially if they're new in the job and trying to impress.

"I was surprised at how fast-paced everything is and how my days just vanish before me," says Matthew. "I've had to reflect and realize it's good to give time back to myself and take regular breaks from my screen.

In addition, remote work can disrupt the home dynamic. Many remote employees share their workspace with spouses and children and may need to adapt to the household's schedule. There can be other disruptions, as well: dogs bark at passersby and cats cross in front of monitors and across keyboards. When those things happen, recognizing the humor helps everyone take it in stride.


See how you and your team can overcome common work-from-home challenges >


Onboarding success

Several weeks after onboarding, Mitel's newest employees give their onboarding process high marks and are confident they've adjusted to their new roles. They've also discovered the advantages of remote work.

"I never thought I could work from home until now. I believe I'm still better in an office environment, but I have found that I am focused while at home," says Matthew. "Although I have two very noisy dogs, I probably get fewer interruptions than I would in an office environment."

Smart onboarding and powerful communications and collaboration tools made Matthew's, Jeyda's and Keaton's starts easier, helped them to get to know global colleagues and collaborate seamlessly across time zones.

"To join a company during a period of lockdown enforced by our government was really impressive," says Matthew. "Whilst lots of companies had applied for government support and started furloughing staff, I've been impressed with how well Mitel responded to the shift to 'work-from-home'. We have the technology that allows us to work and continue business as usual, and it's a great message for other businesses that had to make the shift but had challenges with their technology.


Explore more of our favorite remote working resources and tools >



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