Onboarding Remote Employees

Human Resources

Having a proper onboarding flow should be a crucial part in any team. In remote companies specifically, this gets even more important because of the asynchronous nature of remote communication. In this post, we're going over a few ways how you can make the first day of your new employees easier, and how you can make teamwork easier right away by having a proper onboarding flow.

Before the first day: Setup & Administration

Onboarding starts well before the first day. According to your setup, you should make sure that all hardware and office material is getting delivered to your new employee and reimbursed before the first day. Make sure that you have all the paperwork together, and set up your employee profile in your payroll systems.

It can also make sense to set up your employee stipends and benefits at this point: Get offers from local coworking spaces, or request them to add one more spot. Set up employee accounts for all your benefit providers, and set up a stipend account if you have one.

Image of Buffer company swagTip: At this point it can be a nice surprise to also send off a swag package,
so that it gets delivered on the first day!


Finally, you should request or create all needed employee accounts, add them to your organization, and even invite them to the employee chat. The last step can be an excellent opportunity to also introduce the hire to the team (optimally, this should happen once the offer is accepted though, not a few days before the first day).

The first day: Self-Onboarding can be a solution

The first day is crucial. It's a day where a new employee can either feel confident and welcomed, or lost and unproductive. Ideally, you'd have an employee assigned to this onboarding task who can take care of the new hire from the first hour.

Synchronous Onboarding

If you can do that, and have someone in the same timezone, that's great.

In that case, make sure that the employee in charge schedules a phone/video call, first thing in the morning. In this phone call, you should go over:

  • A quick, casual introduction chat
  • A standardized checklist, to make sure all accounts have been set up correctly
  • Introduction of the company and team
  • Introduction to the team that employee is going to work in
  • Explanation of how team works together
  • First tasks
    • Setting up accounts and computer
    • Introduction to the team
    • Onboarding exercise or first task

This is not so different from co-located onboarding, it's just a lot more important. Be sure to be in touch with the new hire throughout the day, and catch up at the end of it.

Asynchronous Onboarding

In many cases, it's not possible for an appropriate employee to be present during the first day, or at least first few hours. In that case, do not let the employee wait for you. Be sure to set up an onboarding system that the employee can use for self-onboarding.

  • Before you log off on the evening before, send an e-mail to the employee's inbox
  • Use a scheduling tool like Donut to send an automated message on the morning of the first day
  • Create an extensive "Onboarding Document" with things to do, set up, information and first tasks

Whenever it is possible, an employee or manager should try to catch up and see how things are going. Especially if someone hasn't worked remotely before, the first day can be confusing. Try to be there for questions.

The first week: Checking in

Usually it's fine for coworkers to talk to each other and onboard the new employee during the first day or so. Sometime in the first week, you, a senior manager, or even the CEO/CTO should make some time to catch up with the new employee though.

This is a prime time to learn about how the employee has experienced their onboarding, and to make sure any insecurities are being taken care of. Catch up the employee, ask what they're working on, and extend any advice you can give to them. It can be a good idea to formally match them up with an employee for the rest of the month, to make sure any other issues are being taken care of, too.

Finally, it could be good to make these check-ins part of your usual routine for the first few months, but preferably forever. Issues come up during any time of an employment, so it can be good for you to know about them, and solve them – especially if you don't see employees often.

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