The coronavirus pandemic has changed working life as we know it.
Indeed, when prime minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown on 23 March 2020, many employers and employees will have believed they would return to the office within a couple of months.
Fast forward ten months and most organisations still have their entire teams working remotely.
While frustrating, the majority of businesses have been able to successfully adapt to life outside the office. Tools like Slack, Zoom, Google Docs and Microsoft Teams have all helped to streamline the communication and collaboration process, preserving company productivity.
A recent study revealed that half (50 per cent) of employees feel they are more productive when working from home. What is more, the majority (54 per cent) claimed to be happier working away from their traditional office space.
These figures are encouraging, particularly as remote working is likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future. However, there remains one glaring exception when the closure of offices remains far more challenging: onboarding new staff.
After all, existing members of the workforce will have built strong relationships with colleagues and developed a firm understanding of how their company works, prior to the pandemic.
New members of staff will not have the same advantages; they are unable to walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask about a business process or meet members of staff in the breakroom.
This is a pressing issue for businesses: 6.1% of employed people in the UK moved jobs in the first half of 2020. For employers, it is a challenge as the have to think carefully how best to train new employees, welcome them warmly, and integrate them into the team.
The key to welcoming any new starter into the virtual workforce is to begin introductions as early as possible. Luckily, the various communication platforms mentioned earlier can facilitate this.
For example, management teams can ensure that, once a prospective employee accepts the job offer, virtual coffees and lunch meetings with their new team can be booked into the diary – these can take place prior to the individual’s first official day with the company.
Doing so will ensure new colleagues are able to build relationships with team mates, rather than starting their new role without knowing anything about the people they were reporting into or, potentially, managing.
What’s more, the exercise also serves as a form of informal training. It enables the new starter to ask questions about their role and the company in a casual setting.
Of course, they receive formal training once they join the company, but such relaxed discussions help new employees to gain a strong, base-level understanding of what is expected of them.