My first day at Extensis was two days after our whole team began working from home in quarantine. Onboarding at a new company is always an exciting time, but this isn’t what I expected.
Here’s what has made my onboarding so effective, along with a few tips of how we’re staying connected.
Even before my first day, our HR manager forwarded an email from our CEO asking everyone to work from home. This was the week of March 9th, and it was a lifeline in a sea of rapidly changing information. It was also the first of many clues that over-communication is a big part of the culture at Extensis. Joining our morning status updates on Slack, our weekly marketing team meetings on Zoom, and 1:1s with my manager were simple and straightforward. It was easy for me to get on board quickly because these types of interactions are a normal part of company life.
Social distancing forced everyone to work from home, but we made a smooth transition because everyone had access to the same information. We receive constant updates from our executive team about the state of the company and when we might return to the office. This kind of clear communication has given everyone more bandwidth to focus on what matters most: our customers.
Any company can model these lessons in leadership for new hires. Great onboarding doesn’t just happen on its own. Anticipate common questions and share as much as possible so your new team members can get up to speed quickly. If it can work in the first half of 2020, you can apply these lessons anywhere.
Overcommunication is as much about quality as quantity. When everyone works from home, you lose opportunities for spontaneous conversations and personal interaction. And that means you have to be proactive with alternatives.
If you want to incorporate these tactics, start by being open and transparent about how you measure success. This is your North Star. If it’s essential when everyone’s together in the office, just think of how important it is when everyone’s practicing social distancing. Focus on outcomes and not activities. You’d be amazed at what people can do if you inspire them with an ambitious goal.
Working from home has forced everyone on our team to become better at time management. Here’s what helped sharpen my focus:
Remember the most important reason to set a schedule and share it with your team is to improve your mental health. Setting clear boundaries on your availability is vital for productivity. Not only that, but setting clear boundaries is an essential aspect of good mental health. Higher productivity begins with good planning but it’s based on openness and transparency.
One aspect of my remote onboarding that made it so easy was that everyone else on the team led by example. And even though we’ve kept up a high level of productivity, I think we can do even better.
In addition to weekly 1:1s and video conference calls with members of your team, consider sending your manager an end-of-the-week update every Friday morning. This is a great time to report on your progress, and this email will complement your 1:1s and team meetings. Plus, the better you’re able to track what you’ve accomplished, the more likely you’ll spot new opportunities to improve.
Professional development shouldn’t stop when you’re away from the office. From the moment we began working from home, our HR team encouraged us to continue our progress on LinkedIn Learning courses. One way to extend this would be to hold monthly or biweekly lunch-and-learns. These can be a source of inspiration and a great way to build camaraderie.
And when you’re not supporting local restaurants by ordering delivery or takeout, have some fun with home-cooked meals. One way you can do this is to ask everyone on the team to make the same dish and then share pictures and notes on your company’s instant message app. Send out the recipe Friday morning and then everyone can share their notes the following Friday. Simple and delicious.
Social distancing might keep us apart, but we have plenty of ways to stay connected. I’m grateful for all the steps our team has taken to stay focused and overcommunicate. It’s been an incredible introduction to our culture and I hope we come out of this even stronger.