Remote work

Five remote-onboarding tips for IT pros

IT pros share advice on how to ensure a new employee has a smooth day 1 (from home)
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· 4 min read

One of the perks of landing a job long ago was that you’d get that day-one tour of the office.

Your new boss would bring you from the cubicle to the conference room where you’d meet Debbie, Rachel, and two guys named Dan. Company handbook in hand, you’d eye the snacks and try to figure out who might have the clearest view of your monitor.

Now, many typical first days begin at home.

According to a 2022 Q1 report from Ladders, 24% of all professional jobs in the US and Canada are now being hired for permanent remote work.

Fully remote companies are exploring onboarding strategies that attempt to make employees feel encouraged and not overwhelmed by checklists.

“If you told me a couple years ago, ‘you’re going to interview for a job and get hired and start working having never met anybody in person,’ I’d have told you you were crazy. But now, that’s the way it works,” Lisa Plaggemier, executive director at the National Cybersecurity Alliance, told IT Brew.

IT will frequently ship the basic equipment to new remote employees: mainly a laptop loaded up with company-issued security software and the necessary applications.

Many companies don’t want new employees to feel like it’s just them and their computers when they sign on for their first day of work.

“What you really want to avoid is this feeling that I am in this little box, and I only see what comes into my little box,” said Jamie Kohn, research director in the Human Resources practice at Gartner. “Which is how it feels when you are onboarding in front of a computer and you don’t have that, you know, casual contact with the organization, walking into an office and getting a full feeling of what this job looks like.”

Kohn and other industry pros spoke with IT Brew about remote onboarding  and how to make sure that employees are set up remotely without feeling remote.

Have a plan: One way to make sure remote employees feel especially alone is if they don’t have their machine ready to go, said Kohn. “A lot of organizations have started having someone reach out before the start date to say, ‘Let’s test your technology. Let’s make sure everything is working’…just to relieve that anxiety. [So they don’t] sit down at 8am on day one and nothing works,”said Kohn.

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And a backup plan: Be ready if the device doesn’t arrive, said Paddy Harrington, senior analyst at Forrester. He recommended options like virtual desktops(VDI) which can be accessed with a personal device. “Maybe you’re not doing VDI for everyone remote, you’re not doing it for everything, but you have some virtual desktops available,” he said.

Space: Help employees make their homes comfortable for work. “Set aside a space in the home that’s actually conducive to work. You know, your couch might not be it,” said Michael Arnold, CEO of ITNS Consulting. An Owl Labs report found that 40% of employers provided a one-time payment to employees for work from home expenses, while 35% of the 2050 workers surveyed were offered some kind of monthly stipend for in-home equipment.

Collab: Offer multiple ways to stay in touch: email, Slack, phone, Zoom, you name it.Flood the channel; don’t assume somebody can get a hold of you,” Jerald Murphy, SVP of research and consulting at Nemertes, told IT Brew.

Help!: Make sure employees know who to call when the inevitable problem arises.Murphy’s Law is going to intervene,” said, well, Murphy. “So there needs to be a contact list, an escalation list [for] when it goes wrong.”

New employees will inevitably have questions, said Dan Lohrmann, field CISO at Presidio. “What do you do off-hours? What’s the phone number for the help desk? Where can I go to get support? That’s basic stuff that really needs to be in that initial checklist.” —BH

Do you work in IT or have information about your IT department you want to share? Email [email protected] or DM @BillyHurls on Twitter.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming. Our IT Brew newsletter delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.