If you’ve ever  been employed, then you know the nagging fear of starting a new job. That fear could range from something as irrational as “is this lunch box dorky?” to something more complex like feeling like you might not be cut out for the job at all.

I tend to feel a catastrophic mix of both fears with a few more tacked on. Typically, I can get past this by immersing myself in the work, culture, and people around me. But onboarding to the Ample team via Zoom made that immersive experience really damn different. 

How is it that different? 

This should be at least somewhat self-explanatory. Life’s been different in this year of pandemic-living. Enough of Zoom already, right? Now, I'm not saying different is bad, but it certainly introduces new challenges that might not exist in face-to-face interactions, especially when trying to learn a whole new job from home. 

By the time I started at Ample, I was nine months into the virtual work world and didn’t anticipate the challenges to be much different than starting any other new role. What I didn’t factor in, was meeting all my new coworkers via my 16-inch laptop screen. 

As I approach my three-month mark of working with Ample, I can certainly say I’m more comfortable working with everyone. But not really getting to know your colleagues in a company of 18 —already close people —can be, for lack of a better word, hard. 

At least with virtual onboarding, I was able to calm my fears of choosing the right (or wrong) lunchbox. I used to revel in the idea of leaving the office to come home for lunch to watch Netflix. Now, after a year of working from home, I think I’d pay for the opportunity to have a boxed lunch in an over-air-conditioned office while making random small talk. But working from home isn’t all bad...

Virtual workplace wins 

There are of course some wins that come with being in a totally virtual workspace that I hope I again will get the opportunity to “miss” one day soon. 

  • The time between me wearing “real people clothes” and changing into lounge clothes happened before everyone at the company even knew my last name. I’ve invested in two new pairs of slippers since starting at Ample. 
  • I don’t have to wake up any earlier to make sure I’ve got food packed for a day at the office. For better or worse, I can pop into my pantry any time a craving strikes. 
  • I am a self-proclaimed walk-aholic a year into this pandemic life. If I don’t take breaks in the day for 2-3 walks, I get antsy (and grumpy).
  • “Sex and the City” makes for lovely background noise on a Friday afternoon.
  • I think wearing basically pajamas to work is worth listing again.

What I suggest for companies onboarding virtual employees 

It’s important to note that I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution for virtual onboarding (or anything, really). Ample was there to welcome me with open arms from day one. I think there are a few things that are important to keep in mind should your company be welcoming a new team member through a computer screen.

  • Keep meetings to a minimum for the first couple of weeks.
    It’s hard to stay engaged for 5+ hours of meetings a day in the first week when you lack context and have nothing to contribute. Exposure to clients or internal team members early on is great, but I suggest making sure the backstory, context, and purpose of the meeting is explained to your new employee before sending out an invite.
  • Cool it with the Zoom happy hours, lunches, etc.
    We’re all experiencing burn out from all the different virtual experiences so don’t overload your current employees with more awkward happy hours which in turn make it awkward and unengaging for the new employee. Big kudos to Ample in how they’ve handled this thus far: shooting for more of a “toast to the new hire” vs. “an hour of awkward small talk on Zoom.”
  • Give shout-outs to new employees early on and often.
    In a virtual work world, it can feel much harder to get your footing, so reassurance can be a helpful (and painlessly easy) way to make your new employee feel included. Tell them they’re on the right track! Now, obviously, this only applies if your new employee is on the right track.
  • Be friendly and outgoing.
    Another point for Ample on this one. Sending a simple “Welcome to the team!” message or asking them a (work-appropriate) personal question like “Are you a dog or cat person?” can help make a new employee feel welcome and included.

The challenges I’ve faced with virtual onboarding have been some of the toughest of my career so far, but — as with any challenge — I’ve learned so much about my working style and what it takes for me to succeed. Bottom line, I feel so grateful to have found Ample and can’t wait to meet the team IRL over a beer ASAP.

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