We're so glad you're (not) here!
June 6, 2023 1:42 PM   Subscribe

You are starting your new job and will be a 100% remote worker living many hundreds of miles away from most of your coworkers. You are not the only person who is 100% remote at your new company, but the majority of your coworkers work a hybrid schedule and come into the office anywhere from one to five days a week. What did your manager and team do to help you feel welcome and like part of the office "community"?

I'm the manager! I really want to help my soon-to-be direct report feel welcome and included.

This is a US-based, corporate employer.

Note: our HR is extremely centralized and I don't have any control over my direct reports' working arrangements, pay, or benefits. There is a small pool of departmental engagement funds I can draw from, enough to buy lunch or a small gift but not enough to pay for a Wifi connection or a really nice workstation.
posted by capricorn to Work & Money (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
For some of my virtual staff, I scheduled 30 min virtual meet and greets with everyone in our directorate. I encouraged everyone to be engaging and share what they’re doing and tips/advice. This was spread over a period of a month and gave them a little informal one-on-one time. Perhaps you could send a mug and coffee/treats along with this.

I also do fly out my virtual staff for important meetings or trainings. I try to have one of those within the first quarter of when they start. Not sure if that’s within the budget but those intentional opportunities can be valuable.
posted by inevitability at 2:53 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]

Send some company swag with a handwritten note. Nth'ing inevitabilities comment about scheduling virtual meet & greets for introductions--NOT jumping directly into work stuff . . .
posted by eggman at 4:15 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]

Be extra-available to that person when they want to meet/Zoom/call: the immediacy makes them feel more connected.

My son is a new intern and working remote, and he gets extra irked when he's stuck waiting for a call back from his manager.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:18 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

Regular team standup meetings with an icebreaker-type question for fun and getting to know people

A lively chat channel, with occasional conversation-starters thrown in
posted by alicat at 9:39 PM on June 6

Seconding the lively chat channel, it helps everyone feel more connected and lets remote employees be in the loop and even in on the jokes.

We do regular check ins, and weekly team meetings with everyone dialing in (so all on equal footing, even if some are in the office), and cameras on. These meetings are largely social by design— if you feel you know someone it’s much easier to reach out via chat or email after to collaborate or ask for help.

Accomplishments and milestones are celebrated in the chat channel so everyone has visibility.

If there’s budget, even a yearly in person meeting goes a long way to building relationships.
posted by ohio at 10:47 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

At a fully remote company I worked for, we did Friday meet-and-greets. One or two employees would be asked ice breaker questions by a moderator and other folks could ask questions as well (in chat or by voice).
posted by kokaku at 11:10 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

I managed in this situation and what worked was separate work and fun chat channels. Some of the things in fun channel were birthdays and general congratulations on things (welcomes and promos should always be in work channel though), optional daily crossword using https://downforacross.com/ (early in week NY Times ones seemed best, no pressure to finish). People seemed to like posting pics of pets, holidays etc but only if not asked or forced to. Just try post a few yourself and see if it catches on.

In virtual standups (3 times a week) we rotated who ran them and had a low-pressure no-stress icebreaker question like "do you prefer cats, dogs, both or neither?" (I had to talk to the intern after "what is your biggest regret?", way to bring down everyone at the start of a workday!). We also added "pass" as an option in case someone felt put on the spot.

For morale events every 2-3 weeks we did an hour after lunch on Fridays (never have them after work hours, people have lives and stuff!) of a drawing game (https://skribbl.io/ I think, despite the horrible ad you have to watch was still ok), codenames (https://netgames.io/games/codewords/), or dad jokes etc. And we invited people who had worked with people on the team recently (or just pick another team to invite) and some upper managers, which also helped networking and getting used to people outside the team.

Things to avoid - encouraging alcoholic drinks during virtual events, I had some non-drinkers on my team and some of the other managers kept pushing this, ugh. Getting too personal or nosy also sucks, have a safe conversation topic list handy (weather, traffic etc) rather than falling into that trap.

It takes a while to get things flowing, if something doesn't work then try something else! Ask for suggestions but don't nag people too often for them.
posted by meepmeow at 11:47 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the answers so far; keep 'em coming! To answer the question about travel, yes, we have a budget for remote staff to travel into our office a few times a year and definitely plan on using it.
posted by capricorn at 6:29 AM on June 7

They sent me a "welcome to the team" video before my first day! Just a round-robin on Teams, everyone introduced themselves and gave a little background. It was lovely!
posted by ersatzkat at 9:57 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Timely as I am in week 1 of my 3rd remote new start:

Not morale building but for the love of Pete: what they are expected to do with their tech before or on their first day, and WHEN and how to start their first day, to their personal email.

A welcome email on their arrival, thru whatever channels are standard. With a little personal details sought beforehand, or encouragement to add some reply-all.

Recommend a buddy for the informal "what's this tool / what does this acronym mean"

Swag. Even a pen or non branded notebook is fine.

Gift card for lunch or a coffee break in the first day or week

Instructions for scheduling a 1:1 with relevant folks

Water-cooler channel in your chat app

Other good examples above too, especially stand ups and visible kudos.
posted by paradeofblimps at 12:34 PM on June 7

Know their local news and ask them about it. Snowstorm in your area? Send us Pix!! Really helps to feel connected. (This is an ongoing thing, not just an onboarding thing. Also having them walk us around video tour their office was really nice.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:38 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

Oh! Have like a group mascot like a small toy dog or something and send it back and forth. If you see it in their video during calls it feels connected too.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:40 PM on June 7

Since COVID started, I have been sending an email to new hires on other teams within my department, to give them some organizational context -- but also as a purely human move.

I always end by offering to be the person who will help them when they don't know where to ask a given question: I think that's a super important thing to have in your pocket when you're getting oriented in a new organization.

Afterwards, many people have been pleased to schedule a 15- or 30-minute video call to get socially acquainted, and also to hear about my two teams and how we might work together. Those little tendrils are how you find connections and common ground, which ays off over the years.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:05 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]

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