AB Thinks  →  20th July 2021

Onboarding online: Creating a community on camera

For many of us, working from home has become the norm over the past year. Cutting commutes – and connections – are just two side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those of us lucky enough to be able to stay home have been better acquainted with our sofas than ever before. Looking ahead, many teams will continue to connect in the virtual realm, building long-term flexibility into the “normal” working week – your familiarity with the Teams gif selection is here to stay.

But what has remote working meant for workplace community?

Last week, I joined the AB team from the comfort of my living room. Like thousands of other new recruits, I said my intros into a camera lens, got up-to-speed on the ins and outs of life at the agency via Teams – and I’m not likely to meet any of my colleagues in person for some time.

The pandemic has redefined communications, both internally and between business and customer. While workplace comms was already trending towards a more flexible, agile timetable for those who could work from home, COVID has forced many companies to transform at an unprecedented (there’s that word again) rate.

So how can businesses ensure new recruits feel valued and fully integrated into the team without in-person time? It’s all down to comms. Here’s a whistle-stop survival guide for welcoming remote workers into your team:

#1 In-person doesn’t have to be a physical room
Thanks to the wonders of technology, we’ve all been able to seamlessly shift our meetings online. Making time to connect should be a daily priority – give new team members the fanfare they’d get on their first office day. Make sure you set up meetings with the team and other divisions across the business to allow new joiners to put faces to names, and show them who they need to come to, and for what.

#2 Community matters, now more than ever
Unfortunately, grabbing a cup of coffee and brainstorming over a bagel from that nice café over the road simply isn’t possible in today’s virtual workplace. But that doesn’t mean these informal chats should be removed from workplace life all together. Schedule team-wide and business-wide informal meetings as regularly as possible, allowing people to take time out from the virtual grind and have a natter about who’s been voted out of Love Island, or commiserate a football final loss together (nope, we’re not over it yet).

#3 Flexible means flexible. Honour it
For many workers across the world, working from home has evolved to mean living at work. As you move toward a truly flexible workplace, make sure it’s clear that colleagues need to take time for themselves. Set boundaries on when you’ll expect them to be taking calls, for example, and foster clear communication across teams and divisions to manage expectations accordingly.

And if you’re starting a new role from home, here’s the three most important things I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks:

#1 Get into those meetings
Ask to be added to any and every group meeting, and turn up. You’ll miss out on overhearing little gems of info by just tapping away at your keyboard – make time to integrate across the business.

#2 Always speak up
Seize the opportunity in your intro meetings to ask all your burning questions – you’ll struggle to have a successful first week if you’re still wondering how best to access joint files, and who to go to with operational questions.

#3 Make the most of it
See this new, flexible journey as an opportunity to find the best work-life balance for you. Work with colleagues to discover how to collaborate on projects effectively, and learn to take time out for a gossip at the virtual watercooler. Don’t forget to take your lunch!