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Onboarding a remote employee: the prep, tech, and legalities

Less than a year ago, the idea of onboarding the majority of your new employees remotely would have seemed laughable. As a result of the fallout from Covid-19, it’s the norm. Organising contracts with your employment solicitor, introducing new employees to their teams, running induction days, setting them up with equipment, training them up on systems and easing them into their role, is all now being done largely remotely. To ensure that you do this in the same professional manner you have always applied to employee onboarding, it’s key that you devise a practical structure for onboarding a remote employee. Here, we look at how to successfully introduce your new employees to your company and their role within it virtually.

Setting up new employees to work remotely

Before anyone can start working for you remotely you must provide them with the tools that they need to carry out their work. For most people that are set to work from home, this means providing them with a mobile phone, computer, mouse, keyboard, software and possibly a printer, desk, and chair. If any of this equipment has previously been used by someone else, it is prudent to ensure that it has been stringently cleaned to stop the possible spread of Covid-19 or other pathogens.

You must also insure this equipment and if you require your remote employees to use any of their own equipment you will need to ensure that all the work that they do for you is saved and sent securely. Plus, you must check that they have an adequate broadband and WiFi service for the work they are doing.

How to run a remote induction programme

Once your new employees have all the equipment and services, they need to work for you remotely, you can start the formal onboarding process. When it comes to onboarding a remote employee, your induction programme should be structured in much the same way as it would be if your new employee was starting work on site. Timetable the day with a series of meetings using a video meeting service, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. If you have a few new starters, try to start them all on the same day, so that they can come together for some of the meetings and hopefully buddy up.

Try to come up with some creative employee onboarding techniques. Even though they are working from home, you want your new staff members to feel very much a part of your team. Consider sending them a welcome pack for their first day - perhaps a mug with your company branding, a packet of biscuits, some teabags, your staff handbook and a welcome card from the CEO – something unexpected.

Begin the day with a virtual hello from your HR support, your new employee’s line manager and/or the CEO. This is a chance to formally welcome them to the company, explain how the day will run, talk about how the role can be carried out remotely and ask and answer questions.

Next, schedule a slot with a member of your IT team to make sure that their emails, hardware, and software are all set up and working property and get trained up on using it all. It may take a little longer to get familiar with new systems when working remotely, so don’t skimp on time here. Use screen-sharing to help explain details and don’t expect your new hire to pick everything up at once. Let them know that there will always be people on hand to help them out with any queries.

After a break for coffee or lunch, set up an informal meeting with your new employee’s team members, where everyone can introduce themselves. Follow this up with individual meetings with team members who can show them how to do role-specific tasks. You could also assign your new employee with a team mentor tasked to keep in regular touch with them and always be on hand to help with any problems.

Finish the day with a final meeting with your new employee’s line manager where any further queries can be cleared up and they can explain what their tasks are moving forward and set them key performance indicators to work towards.

How to make a new remote employee feel part of the team

It may be that the majority of your staff are now working remotely, so it’s important that you make everyone feel that they are still part of a team. This will be harder for those employees that start out working remotely and have probably never met any of their work colleagues in person, but with a bit of extra effort you can get everyone to get to know each other.

Consider using an online team-communication platform, such as Slack, and project management tools, such as Trello or Monday, where people can chat individually or in groups. Encourage people to phone or Skype each other regularly too. It’s important that everyone always feels connected whilst working remotely. Regular virtual socials, such as quizzes might be on the cards too. It can be a great way to relax people and encourage virtual team bonding.

Devising an employment contract for remote workers

When you are hiring remote employees, it’s important that your contract of employment reflects the additional needs of remote working. Don’t use your standard on site employment contract. Devise a bespoke remote employment contract for remote workers. This will need to include detail on how you will reimburse any costs that they will have to pay for phone and home-office expenses etc.; how you expect them to look after any equipment that you have loaned them; health and safety procedures; cybersecurity; GDPR compliance and information on how your equipment is insured while on their premises.

For a more information on the legal considerations you’ll need to make when onboarding remote employees, read more in our complete legal guide for employers on working from home.

Now you’re armed with the fundamentals required to hire and onboard new employees remotely, you’ll be able to quickly adapt to the current climate, build on your success and begin, if necessary, to build an entirely remote working team.


What next?

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