As virtual working has become the new normal, the need for effective onboarding could not be greater. Where office camaraderie and impromptu one-to-ones may have been the extent of your process before, the current climate calls for a new and improved plan for remote onboarding.

Fortunately, while the circumstances are unprecedented, the key themes have not changed.

Remote onboarding – just like regular onboarding – requires commitment from line managers to ensure new employees are equipped with everything they need to get stuck in on day one.

Below, we’ve collated advice from our team and examples from our clients to create a helpful guide to remote onboarding.

From offer to start date

You may be eager to get the most out of them, but with no face-to-face communication, how can you set your new employees up for success? The best place to begin is the creation of a checklist for everything your new hire will need ahead of their first day. Before they start their new role, they should have:

  • Start date / time
  • Names, roles and responsibilities of team members
  • List of systems and tools with invites for access
  • IT equipment
  • Adequate office set-up for home working
  • Project details that clearly outline goals, people, stakeholders, scope and status
  • A clear plan for their first day with meetings scheduled into their diary

Remember, a starter pack isn’t a substitute for hands-on support. On the contrary, we recommend scheduling introductory video calls with team members and HR ahead of their start date.

The key takeaway? You can never have too many comms – and this doesn’t all have to be digital. The team at Mindgym, for instance, have found ways to keep new employees engaged before they begin:

“We will be sending out a virtual welcome pack. This will be info on the business, key people, an overview of our products and some reading material relevant to their role. We make sure everyone has a buddy, a go-to person aside from their Manager they can go to for support and that each new joiners first week is clearly planned out for them.”
– Sophie Harris – Mind Gym

Day one

The first day at a new job will always be overwhelming.

The last thing a new employee wants is to be thrown into the deep end with little in the way of introduction. As well as announcing your new employee’s arrival via team-wide email or Slack channel, a new recruit should be invited to as many meetings as possible on day one.

Does your team do a morning stand up? Great – invite them along. If not, a one-to-one meeting with your new employee should take priority ahead of your daily schedule.

To combat the lack of open dialogue in a physical office, we suggest introducing a buddy system whereby your new recruit is paired with an existing member of the team. During their first day and week, a go-to colleague can make all the difference in combatting anxiety and uncertainty.

When working remotely, it’s easy to push back casual lunch dates and non-work related calls, but it’s the little things such as these that will keep your culture alive and make new hires feel welcome.

At Deliveroo, there is a clear focus on sustained communication and ownership of onboarding:

We’ve been sending out IT equipment and doing company onboarding sessions via Hangouts. Each team is working on a more specific onboarding plan, but to be honest, it was already really well put together and pretty easy to adapt. We’ve got a few slack, workplace and hangout initiatives and other things that help new joiners feel introduced and connected to their teams. We also have a dedicated onboarding owner which makes it a bit easier to communicate and drive what we need to do in terms of the journey between signing and joining.” – Mark Hothi, Deliveroo

Week one

In the absence of face-to-face contact, line managers must take responsibility to ensure their new employee feels excited, immersed and integrated.

Of course, we recognise that not all businesses will have the luxury of dedicating entire teams to welcome new starters. However, there are still plenty of ways in which SMEs can foster a sense of belonging in a new recruit’s first week.

At the end of each day of their first week, line managers should make an effort to check in with new employees. It’s likely they will have key questions as they settle into their new role, and it’s important these aren’t left unanswered for lack of in-person contact.

Talking of contact, introductions with the wider business are the bread and butter of employee onboarding. Have they met other teams in the business? How about the leadership team? In their first week, ensure calls are scheduled in with heads of departments and members of the C-suite to establish a relationship early on.

In our experience, we have found that onboarding is facilitated by tools that we already use in the business. This view is shared by 10up, who spoke to us about how they have been enhancing the onboarding process for new recruits:

“Rather than introducing a new platform or starting a cumbersome email chain, onboarding should be treated as a project within your existing project management system. Simply create a project – whether it’s Trello, Basecamp, Teamwork – for your new team member and invite everyone who will be involved in their onboarding. That way, tasks can then be assigned to specific users who can ensure it is delivered correctly, just as they would any other project.
– Tim Hoang, 10up

Above all, strong communication is the key to effective onboarding.

If this is your first time onboarding remotely, teething pains are to be expected. We strongly recommend asking your new hires for feedback on the process: what is working, what could be better, what do they still need from you to feel immersed in their new role? This way, they always know where they stand and feel comfortable voicing any issues should they arise.

While we’re all facing a shift in the way we work, we hope this guide has been helpful in shining a light on the key tactics you need to welcome new employees to the business.


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