If I were asked to describe my first month of work at 90octane, I’d simply say it’s been different. Different than starting other new jobs where I’d wake up in the morning to try on half a dozen outfits, try to shake off those first day jitters. Instead I got up, tossed on some sweats, and prepared for a day full of Zoom meetings with people I’d never actually met. 

In a work-from-home world, more companies will face having to interview, hire, and onboard remotely. For new hires, the process of integrating into the company and establishing connections with colleagues will present unique challenges—especially when we’re all separated by screens that effectively remove the element of human contact from interactions. In the virtual space, so many facets of engagement get lost in translation. Your comments aren’t always going to be heard. Conversation is not going to flow as freely. Your jokes aren’t always going to land. Or if they do, everyone will be on mute and you won’t get the laugh you were looking for.  

As a result, as a new hire, the wrench in adjusting to the world of remote work is not the “work” part. It’s the “remote.” 

Something I didn’t expect to miss from in-office work culture is “water cooler talk.” Those little opportunities every day to connect with another person—conversations that in the past might have been categorized as polite or even tedious. But oh, how I miss water cooler talk. There aren’t many water coolers to be had over Zoom, no physical space to socialize at work. I never understood how important the water cooler is to the process of building trust and rapport with one another. 

Much to my excitement, however, I have joined the 90octane team, one that is creatively trying to replicate the work socialization experience—and doing a great job. A year ago if you’d asked me if I enjoyed virtual happy hours, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. Now, I look forward to the agency-wide Thirsty Thursday every week. 

Like I said, it’s different. But virtual happy hours aside, there are simple and sincere ways to onboard new hires and help them feel like a part of the team, even when the team is apart.   

  1. Make Virtual Introductions 

Your people are your culture. Your new hires aren’t going to have a strong connection to that culture without knowing those people. Setting up 1:1 introductions, planning a virtual coffee break or happy hour, or simply adding new hires to the appropriate Slack channels will open the lines of communication between them, and other established employees.  

Onboarding checklists prove to be helpful in this instance. Line items like “Meet With Account Team Lead” or “Set Up Meeting with Your Project Manager” are manageable tasks that will lend a hand to the new hire’s social integration while still helping them feel productive. 

While you’re making these introductions, providing the new hire with an up-to-date org chart certainly couldn’t hurt. This will help put faces and names into context. 

  1. Client or Project Immersion

As a new hire, it’s uncomfortable to feel like you’re “behind” or burdensome to your new teammates. To further acquaint your new hire with the company, arrange onboarding sessions for the new hire to be effectively “immersed” into existing projects that they will need to contribute to in the future. They will be able to get more face time with the employees they’ll be interacting with day-to-day while getting up-to-speed on the company’s work. This could include anything from brand book run-throughs to getting an in-depth client history from the appropriate SME.  

  1. Assign a Buddy

Finding or assigning an onboarding “buddy” can help a new hire feel more comfortable as they navigate being inundated with new information. Having one similarly tenured person in their corner to answer questions can help a new hire feel more comfortable, like they have a friend in the virtual office. It will also help alleviate the confusion of sending questions to multiple people and fielding multiple answers. 

  1. Check-In Often, and Maintain Continuous Contact 

As a manager, frequent communication will help a new hire build a connection to their teammates, and feel more comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns. 

Weekly check-ins are an easy way to accomplish this, as it acts as a virtual “office hours” where the new hire can ask questions about projects, processes, or just chat about their week.  

  1. Don’t Overthink It

We’re all out of our depth here. Maintaining open lines of communication will be the best way to optimize your remote onboarding process. Ask the new hire where they think their first few weeks could have been improved. And if you think it’ll be helpful to others—have that new hire write a blog about it.

“Much to my excitement, however, I have joined the 90octane team, one that is creatively trying to replicate the work socialization experience—and doing a great job.”