COVID-19 reinvented many of the practices business leaders took for granted, motivating teams to innovate in ways they never have before.
And now, more than a year later, many of the changes made necessary by the pandemic have become huge opportunities for businesses to reimagine employee engagement. One of the biggest opportunities was our lightning-fast shift to remote work.
As the pandemic made staying home a necessity, countless organizations transitioned from entirely on-site operations to (mostly) remote workplaces. And while the transition happened abruptly, businesses and their teams responded with enthusiasm and quickly figured out that remote work has some pretty amazing benefits. As a result, many organizations plan to maintain flexible work arrangements even after herd immunity is reached.
When looking at the research on how businesses have fared through the shift to remote work, it’s easy to see why.
The response to the transition to remote work
In a Pew Research survey from December 2020, the majority of responding employees said the transition to working from home was relatively easy. In another employee survey, respondents said the opportunity to work remotely made them less likely to leave their employer and more likely to recommend their organization to a friend—which is outstanding!
For businesses, the benefits of embracing remote work go beyond creating happier, less stressed team members. Organizations with remote work opportunities can access a wider, more diverse talent pool when it’s time to hire. What’s more, companies that offer a remote work or hybrid work option may also have a competitive edge in the eyes of candidates.
It’s probably safe to assume that remote work is here to stay (at least in some capacity) for the foreseeable future. And lots of businesses may make moves to incorporate remote work for existing employees or add remote employees to their teams in the future.
Is your company exploring the possibility of moving to either an entirely remote or hybrid work model? You may be keen to provide your current team with more flexible work options and feel excited over the prospect of a wider talent pool during hiring.
You may also feel uncertain of where to begin the process. After all, remote work, including hiring, onboarding and training remote hires, requires a different approach from the traditional model.
Not to worry; we’re here to help you improve the onboarding process for remote employees with activities that will keep both new and current employees engaged and connected.
Remote employee onboarding activities for a fresh approach
So here’s where the opportunity to be creative comes in. While remote work offers tons of benefits and opportunities for companies, it can also bring some pretty big challenges.
One of the biggest challenges? Virtually onboarding new hires.
Traditional onboarding—the kind that takes place in an office setting—simply doesn’t translate to the virtual space. Without the visual cues of a brick-and-mortar office, face-to-face contact with co-workers and the opportunity to get a feel for company culture in an office environment, remote employees can sometimes feel like they’re on the outside looking in. A fine line exists, and ineffective virtual onboarding can make new hires feel immediately disconnected from their role, the team, and your company culture. This can lower employee retention rates and create an undesirable view of your organization.
Here’s the good news: you can create an intentional, effective virtual employee onboarding process. And you can bolster it with fresh, creative activities that make it easier to engage remote workers and help them truly feel like part of the team.
Of course, this is easier said than done, right? At Vaco, we hear you, and we’re here to help.
Below is a list of fun, engaging remote onboarding activities to help new hires feel at home in their new roles.
#1: Pre-Day One: Welcome Greeting
Get team members to record welcome messages, then edit them together and send them to your new employee a few days before their official start date. This is different from the new hire announcement. It’s a personal bit of warmth and encouragement from existing employees to their new team member, and it can help a remote hire connect to their new team on a human level when in-person contact isn’t possible.
#2: Day One: Virtual Office Tour
Even if their first day doesn’t include being physically present in the office, that doesn’t mean new hires shouldn’t get a glimpse inside the building. Enlist one or two team members working at your office to conduct a virtual walk-and-talk via FaceTime, Skype, or similar video chatting software. Encourage the in-office team to stop and say hello to additional co-workers during the tour and introduce your new hire.
#3: Week One: Virtual Lunch/Snack Break/Coffee Break
In-office interactions help new hires build connections to fellow team members, so it’s important to be more intentional about creating these types of interactions in a virtual setting. Invite your new hire to join one or two team members in an online social setting with no agenda. Encourage a free-flowing conversation, but don’t hesitate to provide talking points in case your new hire feels shy or reserved.
Tip: Be aware of time zone differences so you aren’t inviting someone for coffee at 5:00 AM.
#4: Month One: Digital Bookshelf
Create a reading list for the inevitable downtime that pops up in the first few weeks of a new job. The list can include technical manuals or guidebooks, articles, documents, websites, the CEO’s favorite business book, and helpful recommendations by team members. You can even go a step further: set up an Audible account for them or send them a Kindle with a few of your choices pre-downloaded! Take the time to make your reading list accessible to your new hire, whether it’s a document that links to downloads or PDFs or digital copies of books sent via email.
#5: Month One: Icebreaker Activities
When you’re trying to get to know someone, icebreaker games and exercises are a great way to get the conversation flowing. Try simple exercises everyone knows, like Two Truths and a Lie, Would You Rather, or Name That Tune. Incorporate this segment into your team’s daily standups. You can also schedule regular virtual team hangouts over the course of the first few weeks.
If you want a comprehensive checklist of creative virtual onboarding activities, Vaco has you covered. We’ve compiled a free list of activities for the first day, week, month and 90 days of a remote hire’s tenure with your company.
Download our complete virtual onboarding activities checklist now.