It’s exciting to begin a job when your first day is in an office with all your new coworkers nearby. But what happens when you start with a new company as a remote employee, which has become more common since the advent of the coronavirus?
Sitting solo in your home office, getting answers to even basic questions can be slow going. And setting up tech devices that are properly connected to your new company’s network is another challenge. And what about just meeting all the new people you’ll be working with?
Here are some suggestions for your first week that’ll help you avoid feeling isolated and set you off on the right foot in your new remote role.
Before Day One
Review all company materials. Some firms are still providing an onboarding experience for new employees, albeit online. Smaller firms or startups may not. In either case, ask about documents and links to videos the company has that can that provide an overview of the firm’s policies, code of conduct and best practices. Familiarizing yourself with them can give you a head-start in understanding the firm’s organizational culture. If there’s so much that you might not be able to get through all of it before your first day, ask your new supervisor for guidance on which parts to prioritize. If you’re confused by anything, make a list of nonurgent questions and present them several days after your first day during check-in calls with your manager so you’re not interrupting with a steady stream of queries.
Check your tech. If your new employer sends you any equipment, don’t delay in checking it out to make sure everything’s in working order. If something’s wrong, ask your manager for IT support and follow up with them. Your IT rep can also give you direction on setting up equipment if you’re using your own devices. Besides email, don’t forget to ask them about file sharing, online collaboration and anything else you might need to interact with your new team remotely.
On Day One and beyond
Check in with the boss frequently. It’s likely new supervisors will want to meet with new hires daily for the first few days. If that’s not the case for you, proactively update your manager on what you are working on each day to make sure you’re on track.
Bond with your new team. Obviously, it’s harder to establish working relationships with new colleagues as a remote employee than if you were all in the same physical space. When you have a question or want some advice, send an email reminding the recipient that you’re the “new kid on the block” and you have a question. Or start a chat. This will help build an esprit de corps so important when you join a new organization. Using Skype or Zoom, you can even make it a video chat if your new coworkers are comfortable with that. Beyond work, it’s also helpful to establish personal connections, too, in those first days and weeks. If there’s a Slack channel where many of your colleagues post photos of their pets, for example, share some pics of yours. If you discover that you have common interests with someone, bring up those topics in a separate conversation or share articles or thoughts on it that might spark conversation.
Discover individual preferences. Take note of how your new manager and coworkers like to interact. Some people prefer the phone, while others favor email or instant messages. The earlier you figure out how different people like to connect, the faster you’ll establish a good rapport with them. If you don’t know, ask. Most people will be happy to share how they prefer to communicate.
Create structure and boundaries. Establish boundaries between your work and home life. If your manager has not suggested working hours for you, select some and ask whether your plan is workable for both the supervisor and your colleagues. Try to keep these same hours each day and share any exceptions you are forced to make on a particular day as early as possible with others.
Since remote workers don’t pack their briefcases or backpacks and walk out to the company parking lot as a definite signal that the workday is over, it’s too easy to just let the work hours slide into the personal time. It’s also tempting as a remote employee to stretch your workdays out to accommodate every request, especially when trying to prove yourself in a new role where you aren’t seen in person. Some of this is understandable, but be careful not to burn yourself out. And resist the urge to send emails if you’re working late into the evening.
Check on your progress. When you talk to your supervisor, ask for feedback. How did you do during your first week? Are there ways you can improve on communicating from afar? It’s important to get this kind of gauge when beginning in a new position, especially a remote one, to ensure you’re on the right track. You’ll also demonstrate that you’re open to constructive criticism — an important quality in any employee.
Starting a new job remotely is probably something you’ve never done before. But look at it this way: Everybody’s in the same boat today. These tips can help you establish authentic personal connections with your new manager and colleagues and begin feeling like you’re part of the team even though you’re not all housed in the same office.