That Friday feeling; Remote onboarding

21st January 2021

Starting a new job can be incredibly overwhelming. You have new colleagues to get to know, a different boss to work with and the role itself to get to grips with. But the coronavirus lockdown has resulted in a very different experience for those starting new jobs.

It is true of most organisations that the onboarding process for new employees is given a considerable amount of thought. However, at the best of times it is often cited as a significant time challenge, but with the world we currently find ourselves living in we are presented with even more obstacles. How can somebody be inducted at a distance? Can it even be done? What are the pitfalls, if any, if it isn’t done?

As lockdown continues, new joiners currently find themselves in a unique situation. In normal times, subtle cues and words of encouragement from colleagues help people to start to integrate into and understand a new workplace culture. But for new joiners those things are considerably harder, if not impossible, during these unprecedented times. Thankfully, as video technology has become part of our daily routine, there is at least some connection (despite the regular cries of ‘you’re on mute’).

However, a challenge exists for both the business and the individual.

I have experience of remote onboarding on personal level having started my new job as HR Adviser and Paralegal at Murrell Associates during lockdown. Instead of being based at the firm’s office in Truro, I am, of course, entirely based at home.

In many ways, this could be seen as perfect. After all, I’ve chosen the design of my home office: I love the colour of the walls, I love the position of my desk and there are reminders of amazing memories and my favourite people all around me. But this is my home and I had always previously enjoyed a nice separation between work and home. Even the commute, regardless of weather conditions, had some value in creating that separation.

Anybody starting a new job at the moment may well feel even more overwhelmed than usual as they have to navigate a new way of being – and this can be a little daunting for those who have large teams to manage. There is no doubt that organisations are adapting well and being more flexible in their approaches, but there is no substitute for immersing yourself in the company culture – in the ‘this is how we do things around here.’

There could be concerns that a remote starter might miss out on some aspects of actually going to work – the social aspect of work such as chatting with a colleague about the latest period drama over a coffee, relaxing with a drink after work and then that question of ‘will I ever have the Friday feeling again?’

There is no substitute for face-to-face relationship building, and there is no doubt that will happen once we have steered ourselves through this crisis. But for now, easy, practical and adapted onboarding processes are vital as an interim solution. And technology means we can still do this whilst also getting on with the job in hand. If anything, starting work remotely has just made me more excited about getting into the office (when it’s safe to do so of course).

However, whilst we might be working our way through a shift in mindset about what is possible with remote onboarding and working, there is certainly some value in considering a permanent adoption of some of our new habits. We may even realise that there are some much more efficient methods in this ‘new normal.’

What I do know for sure is this:

  • It is possible to build positive relationships when working from home.
  • Working from home makes us more ‘human’ as we meet one another’s pets, children, partners – even delivery men – and we can be even more connected because of it.
  • Lockdown has provided a wealth of opportunity for learning with a greater abundance of webinars and virtual conferences. In addition, many are free of charge and it is much easier to make space for them in your working day.

On the downside, working from home makes it more difficult to switch off – there is no commute home and so no opportunity to ‘brain dump.’ So, try to get outside during daylight hours, turn your computer off at a reasonable hour, take your annual leave and listen to your body.

For me personally, I have been very fortunate that Murrell Associates have welcomed me into the fold with a simple and practical onboarding process. Added to that, the ability to have group and individual video calls has made it much easier than I anticipated. We are lucky that we live in the era of connectivity; I have had a chance to meet colleagues in a seamless way and it is clear that the culture of human-to-human connection is alive and kicking here as colleagues are seen as individuals with lives outside of work.

Starting a job is always a challenge. Starting a new job during a global pandemic requires extra care and special attention to wellbeing. That Friday feeling will be back again – maybe not tomorrow – but it will be for sure.

Get in touch

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, Melanie Rowe (Senior Associate), would be delighted to hear from you. You can reach Melanie on 07854029922 or you can email her