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Developing an Effective Employee Onboarding Process for Remote Workers

The increased use of remote workers by businesses worldwide has created the need for effective employee onboarding processes.  The role of the remote worker carries unique challenges, and modern companies are developing specific approaches to hiring and onboarding to address those needs. It is helpful to review how remote work differs, and what employee onboarding processes will be needed.

What is the Onboarding Process for a Remote Employee?

There are significant differences in the onboarding of remote employees.  The traditional steps of office orientation and personal introductions are not available, and need to be replaced with other means of assimilating the new employee into company culture and practices.

The employee onboarding process for a remote worker should begin during hiring, with clear explanations of how the worker will be managed and developed when they begin employment. By creating defined expectations early on, onboarding should be more smooth for both the company and worker.

Basic Remote Employee Onboarding Process Steps

Some of the basic steps of onboarding still remain the same for remote workers, with some important differences due to the fact that the employee is in another location.  Most of these items are easily accomplished via email or video calls to the worker, depending on time zone differences.

  1. Send the new employee a detailed offer letter highlighting the terms of contract, benefit package and payroll method.
  1. Welcome the employee onboard and establish their point of contact for both HR issues and work projects.
  1. Inform the employee about company policies relating to diversity, tax and payroll compliance, grievances and termination.
  1. Provide them with authorization to access specific software and communication platforms used by company to ensure they are ready to fulfil their remote role.
  1. Set up phone/voice/email and add them to the employee directory and distribution list.
  1. Introduce new employee to other employees which can be done by email, online messaging platforms or online conference.
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Why is an Effective Onboarding Process Important for Remote Employees?

A new remote worker may not be prepared for the challenges of their new role, especially if they are located in a different region or country.  The sense of physical separation places new importance on the onboarding process to accommodate the time and distance differences.

“Although it may seem like a perk to work remotely, it can present difficulties for some workers that are used to a traditional work environment. Even when workers are located in the same locale as the main office, they can feel estranged or isolated by the apparent separation. Remote workers may perform their role from a home office, or even some type of serviced office space provided by the company.” 

Remote Employee Onboarding Process Checklist

Just as with in-office employees it is necessary to have some type of checklist for onboarding remote team members.  There are several items that are unique to remote workers, or take on greater importance because of the work role.

Intellectual Property, Data Access, Security: When a worker is in a remote location access to data and use of intellectual property becomes a priority.  Since there is no onsite supervision to secure data, the worker needs to be informed about data storage, use of customer data and security measures.

Project Management Tools and Expectations: A remote employee needs to be oriented in the tools used to monitor their progress on projects, including the use of milestones and collaboration methods. For this reason, it is best to hire self-motivated remote workers who can manage their own time and deadlines.

Communication Protocols: Communication takes on new significance with the remote worker, since their primary contact with the company is by telephone or internet. It is essential to apprise the worker of when they should be available for communication, and by what method.

Payroll Method: Some remote workers may be located in other countries, requiring a different payroll method than in office employees.  They should be clear about the method of payment and payroll withholdings based on country of residency. If the worker’s residence does not permit remote payroll, it may be necessary to outsource employment to a third party such as Shield GEO.

Best Remote Employee Onboarding Practices

The nature of remote work has spurred HR departments to begin developing a set of best practices for the onboarding process.  Most of these go beyond standard HR practices and are designed specifically to meet the needs of remote workers.

Virtual Onboarding for Remote Teams

Virtual methods of onboarding are essential for remote teams due to the fact they may be spread over wide geographical areas.  There should be some method in place for accommodating this reality including online conferencing and communication apps such as intercall.

These web-based meeting tools can be used for group orientations, team introductions and ongoing team member training sessions.  

Automating the Process with Employee Onboarding Software

The simple administration steps of onboarding a remote worker can take more time and involve electronic transmission of paperwork. The more automated this is, the more quickly and easily a new worker can settle into their role. “Online automation also allows new hires to complete all the necessary paperwork and preparation before Day 1, reducing the time it takes for employees to become effective…”  

Keeping Remote Workers Engaged

There is no one way to keep new workers engaged during the onboarding process.  Offering opportunities to interact with other team members through message boards such as Slack can give a new employee some social connection before beginning work.  It is also important to maintain a basic level of communication with HR and management so that they continue to feel valued and involved even after they have been hired.


When a company recruits and hires a remote worker, the HR department should be prepared with an employee onboarding process that will ensure smooth communication and orientation to the role.  The distinct aspects of remote work will require adaptation in the onboarding process, and perhaps more effort to orientate the new hire with the company culture and practices.

The steps for onboarding remote workers will include clear policy review, project management, team introductions and use of technology to keep the employee engaged even from a distance. With these measures, they will likely be ready to perform as an effective team member, and can be managed more easily.

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