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Joining a new company is challenging at the best of times, but even more so whilst working from home. New starters in an office environment are typically immersed in the structure, culture and processes of their company throughout their work hours. They spend time and talking with colleagues at lunchbreaks and are likely to be participating in regular social events. But with social distancing guidelines ruling this out, and the UK entering a new lockdown, it has become necessary for new starters to find new ways of adapting to the circumstances. In this article, we explore the best methods of fitting into and thriving in a new workplace whilst working from home.
The first step to a successful remote onboarding is to be open to a novel experience. It has always been the case that different companies handle onboarding processes differently. This is especially the case in the virtual format, with some companies preferring to assign new starters a fairly rigid schedule, and others opting for a more open-ended style.
Either way, as a new employee you should remember that this is a new process for everyone. Your employer is, just like you, likely trying to figure out the best structure. Given this, the importance of collaboration between you and your employer cannot be overstated. You should contribute ideas and proactively suggest ways to make your own induction more effective. Provided you do so in a sensitive and professional manner, your line manager will be grateful for your input.
At the same time, you should remember that you are still learning and that you need to prove yourself. That recognition should be reflected in your conduct and communication. Show that you are treating the induction process with appropriate respect by adhering to high standards of punctuality for your virtual meetings. Put the necessary effort into learning to use the company’s chosen software platforms.
Keeping your own tone neutral to begin with, listen closely in virtual meetings and observe the way your team communicates with one another. Note whether the tone is casual or more reserved; whether discussions and meetings are carefully curated or more explorative. By observing these subtle elements of company culture, you can embed yourself in the team, and therefore in company processes far more quickly and effectively.
One common mistake new starters make, whether in an office or working remotely, is to relinquish too much control. They expect their line managers to guide them through every step and assiduously lay out every process. While it is incumbent upon your employers to make clear expectations and provide direction, and especially so for remote workers, proactivity on the part of the new starter is key to successful onboarding.
Accordingly, when starting remotely you should expect and welcome a process of trial and error as you familiarise yourself with your role. Don’t be unnecessarily hard on yourself for the mistakes you inevitably will make, but hold yourself to a high standard. Show your employer why you were the right choice.
Likewise, do not leave the social side of your new role entirely up your company to orchestrate. It has been common during the pandemic for line managers to employ a ‘buddy system’, whereby an experienced team member is given the task of guiding, helping, and supporting the new starter. Whether or not this happens, you will fit into a team far better if you take it upon yourself to get to know your team, join social occasions while adhering to social distancing guidelines, and immerse yourself in the company’s culture.
During remote onboarding, it is often the little things that make the biggest difference to your success. Rather than expect yourself to be able to keep up with the unfamiliar process in which you will be engaged, make it easy for yourself by keeping notes, prompts, and to-do lists nearby. If a colleague has scheduled a meeting with you to explain a particular system or procedure, remember that you will not be able to simply walk over to their desk later that day to reconfirm. Have a notepad and a pen nearby to avoid the need.
Finally, pay attention to your own morale and motivation, as these will have a major impact on your effectiveness and productivity. Set yourself personal goals above and beyond those given to you by your line manager; when you meet them, share the news and congratulate yourself. You will ultimately get the best out of yourself by going the extra mile to give yourself something to be proud of. Do not hesitate to ask questions and contribute in group meetings, as this will remind others, and yourself, that you are not just a new starter, but a genuine resource, of value to the organisation.
With remote working here to stay for the foreseeable future, prospective candidates should be prepared for the challenges of joining a new company remotely. If you are interested in exploring new roles, reach out to our specialised recruiters for an anonymous discussion, or browse our advice section for guidance on related issues.