Remote Onboarding Checklist [free tool]

Updated: May 2

Remote Onboarding Checklist

If you’re an organization that has recently hired a remote employee, you may be wondering how to get them up to speed quickly and avoid messy handoffs. You want to be able to trust that they can handle everything on their own, without having to be micromanaged and without getting frustrated. This guide will walk you through the common challenges and best practices around remote onboarding, and leave you with checklists and tools that you can use to hit the ground running.

Hard facts and soft skills

74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work after Covid. By 2022, 90% of agile development teams will include being distributed as part of their business continuity planning.
Gartner Survey, April 2020

Remote work is here to stay.

Whether this has been your status quo for some time or if you’re adjusting to the new normal – nailing the remote onboarding experience is a must if you want to keep your efficiency up. Well-planned onboarding documentation should take the form of a to-do list, so that it can be easily adapted and digitally implemented.

In their recent employee playbook for ‘distributed work’ Google set out several healthy guidelines for how to keep things as consistent as possible even while teams are dispersed. Note how many of these focus on emotional intelligence – making well-being a priority, recognizing teammates, and setting regular check-ins.

Challenges of remote onboarding

Even in the best of times, a great onboarding experience is a delicate process. You’re ushering new colleagues through an avalanche of paperwork and protocols, equipping them with the necessary hardware and software – all while trying to communicate “Hey! We’re so excited to have you with us – you made a great decision to be here.” It’s a fine balance between bureaucracy and sensitivity, but one which pays off in the long run.

Research by Glassdoor found that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent.

These challenges are compounded when your workforce is dispersed by office, location, and even time zone. This, combined with the following challenges, can quickly result in a lack of engagement. Here are some of the ways in which remote onboarding is challenging for employees and companies:

Employee challenges

  1. Onboarding is boring – The onboarding experience is often monotonous and therefore seen as just another box to check. But if your employees aren’t engaged enough to read your training materials on day 1, it doesn’t set a high bar for the future. There’s a good chance they’ll make mistakes, and it’s just not a fun way to start the relationship.

  2. Remote work is isolating – For those of us accustomed to working among colleagues in a bustling office, remote work can feel downright lonely at first. Perhaps it’s the camaraderie and social atmosphere, or maybe it’s the ability to tap your colleague on the shoulder and ask them how to file those TPS reports. Either way, team members who feel isolated are less likely to reach out and ask for help, and less likely to stick around. According to Digitate, employees who had a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for other career opportunities in the future.

  3. Weak company culture – First impressions count for a lot, and those early days in a new job are absolutely key to creating an employee bond with both teammates and company. But certain rituals such as connecting over a team lunch or getting a tour of the offices are impossible to replicate in a remote format. If steps aren’t taken to fill this emotional void, it can result in new hires feeling unloved and unsure about their decision to work at your company.

  4. Information overload – Many new employees speak of an avalanche of training materials, and there is only so much information one can absorb at a time, especially on screen. Companies in the age of remote work must find creative solutions that let employees onboard at their own pace — but with accountability so that you and your HR department know they’ve completed their training.

Company challenges

  1. Out of sight, out of mind – Even managers with the best intentions are often overloaded with their own tasks, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. It’s easy to overlook things like facilitating introductions to teammates or the health and safety of employees when they work from home. For these things, you need an onboarding checklist.

  2. Soft skills – A warm welcome is just the first of many touch points that tell an employee you care. It’s crucial to signal to new hires that these lines of communication are open, and they also allow you to check-in and see how they’re adjusting to the new role. Scheduling these periodic check-ins was always important, although more informal management styles allowed for ad-hoc monitoring to happen spontaneously around the office. In the age of remote work, a calendar for check-ins necessary to keep both employee and manager accountable.

  3. Software – Logins, licenses, VPNs and permissions. Time to get up to speed on shared tools such as company email, group messaging tools, video conferencing software and web phone applications. But digital onboarding can feel overwhelming, not to mention time-consuming. A well-planned onboarding process keeps all the steps clearly laid out in an accessible location.

  4. Hardware – Just because employees are working from home, doesn’t mean companies should cut corners on hardware. In fact, remote workers require more help on the part of the employer to ensure that their new workers have a fully functioning workstation up and running before their first day. That means everything from a new computer to a chair that will be comfortable to work in for hours at a time.