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How to On-board Staff When You Have a Virtual Office

As companies become even more digital, it’s becoming increasingly common to have employees working remotely. On top of that, some small businesses are entirely virtual now and it’s so easy to do everything online. Thanks to digital, businesses can now recruit top talent from anywhere in the world, save on overhead costs, and become much more efficient by having a virtual office. Here at Creative Solutions, our office is entirely virtual, and has been since the beginning! It was a choice we had made at the start and have not looked back since.

While the benefits of having a virtual office are great, we all know the downside that comes with having remote employees or team members. One of the things people ask is "how do you harness a company culture when you don’t have a physical office?" We spoke with Erin Ashton, an HR professional here in the city to get her tips and tricks for on-boarding staff when you’re virtual.

1. Build company culture, even without an office

Just because you don’t have a physical office space, doesn’t mean you should skip building company culture. “Sometimes a virtual office may not have as much of a culture presence,” says Ashton. “In the planning stages of on-boarding, think about how you can bring your culture to them. make it the forefront of your conversation.”

On their first day, you can do fun things to get them involved like a cool introduction on Slack, or a video huddle on Google Hangouts or Zoom. Even if it’s a really nice email chain where your team pipes in and says hi, or a call, new employees will appreciate feeling involved. As Ashton notes, “The point here is to create as much of a warm and fuzzy feeling to virtual employees as you would others who step foot directly into an office.”

Here at Creative Solutions, we have bi-weekly team Zoom calls and we also host virtual Christmas Parties where all our team members across the country get to meet each other, say hi, see everyone’s smiling faces, and get to know the person behind the emails and Slack messages. It really gives a new breath to our team and harnesses a positive, collaborative culture. We love it!

2. Have an on-boarding plan

Make sure you have a professional, planned on-boarding process in place – even if it’s from a distance. “As we all know, first impressions mean a lot,” says Ashton. “This especially applies to a team member's first day on the job.” So, have a welcome package ready and ensure you take the time to set them up for success. “Know what technology they will need, what milestones you would like them to meet during their probation period and most importantly, who will best guide them through their first 90 days,” recommends Ashton. “Doing this as a baseline will set them up for success.”

3. Bring the on-boarding to them

Make their first day feel like a first day. Working remotely is a nice way to work, but it can also sometimes feel a bit lonely. “Greet them with a welcome package,” says Ashton. “This might include items related to their hobbies and interests or a nice gesture of a treat basket they can munch on in their first few days. If nothing else, make sure to host a virtual video call right away on Day 1, preferably including key people the person will be working with. You want the person leaving on day 1 feeling like they have the same support they would get if they were face-to-face with you every day.”

Make sure to set-up a meeting at the start of the day, do a welcome gesture with the team, and give them everything they need to get started to work.

4. Set expectations for the work week

Let your employees or team members know how working remotely works for your company. Some companies expect them to be logged on from 9-5, while some practice flex hours. Every company is different, so it’s good to level set with new person. For someone new to working virtually, it can feel daunting to wake up and have no idea how to structure the day. Give them some examples for how people work so they can feel empowered and motivated to set their schedules accordingly.

5. Check-in often

One way to make employees or team members really feel part of a team is checking in on them. If they don’t have a manager, assign them a coworker who is happy to touch-base and answer any questions they may have. If they know they have a weekly touch base, they’ll feel more confident bringing up questions or concerns. We use Slack to message team members when we do our check ins. Each new member gets added to Slack right away and the entire team can message them directly as well.

The best thing to do with a virtual office is make sure every employee and team member feels in the loop, appreciated, and part of a team. While the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy can be helpful for some things, it’s definitely something you want to have surrounding your virtual team! Keep everyone top of mind, have team meetings, praise people either via email, on calls, on Slack, or on video conferences, and make everyone feel welcome.

A happy team is just as important as happy clients.

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