In-Office This Job, All-Remote Next Job: How Candidates and Companies Can Make the Transition Easy
So you’ve worked in an office your whole career and have just got your first all-remote job. Exciting, right?! At the same time, there’s probably some nervousness on both sides of the virtual table. As an employee used to the office environment, a lot of energy and excitement for onboarding is tied to the physical space and people inside it. For all-remote teams used to virtual connection, there could be a concern about how someone used to an office will fit into their virtual systems.
As an HR leader, I’ve seen this happen a few times pre-COVID, and of course, happen plenty of times during the pandemic. But it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and shouldn’t make anyone nervous. Based on my experience, here’s what candidates and companies can do to ease the transition from all-office to all-remote when starting a new job.
Acknowledge the awkwardness
This is a very weird transition for both the individual and the company:
- As an individual who’s only ever been in an office, you lose most of the standard questions included in onboarding — finding the coffee machine, bathrooms, meeting rooms, and individual colleague’s desks.
- As a company hiring someone remotely, there is a question about whether they will like an all-remote onboarding and working from home (or a cafe), or if they will crave the steadiness of an office environment in six months.
The first thing is to acknowledge this awkwardness and nervousness. It’s perfectly normal. Throwing it all under the proverbial rug will cause tension down the road.
What candidates can do
Candidates — you are not powerless here. After you accept your offer, try these things to make your transition a bit easier.
List out what’s making you nervous: Keep this private or make a public version and share it with the recruiter who hired you. Either way, the goal here is to identify which things are simply new-job-jitters versus which are concerns to address.
Ask for informational interviews: The more future team members you can meet, the better. See if you can get at least two conversations — one with a direct future team member and one with another employee you wouldn’t usually interact with — so you can get the full picture of the company and make a couple of new work connections.
Ask for introductions in every department: If you can get a friendly warm intro to every department, you’ll be more empowered from day one to reach out for help when you need to (without feeling like you’re always jumping to one team member to assist you).
Ask to join company social events between your offer and start date: If the company is having any social events in between accepting your offer and your official start date, ask to join so you can meet new people and integrate into the social life of the company.
What companies can do
As a company, you probably already have an all-remote onboarding. Here’s what you can to specifically include folks coming from an in-office career to date.
Anticipate classic office questions: In an office environment, new hires will ask about ordering stationery, meeting rooms, snacks, and more. Know what your virtual equivalents are and share those upfront (ideally in a single document you can share as soon as someone accepts the offer).
Invite candidates to different kinds of events: Interviews are great, but also try 1:1 meetings or potentially even inviting them to listen in on a brainstorming meeting or join a social event before they officially start. This will help them get a sense of how you work and play remotely.
Set up a new hire buddy program: Connect every new hire with two people in the company — a direct teammate and someone from another area of the business. That way they will make two connections, one of which will be outside the immediate team so they aren’t siloed when they join.
Create a “rundown” document of major initiatives: This will help new hires get a sense of what they are walking into — and help them see how their work connects to larger business priorities from day one. Depending on the size of the organization, create a similar document for every person, including one sentence about what the purpose of their role is (if you have Role Guides, you can take information from there).
Send a social calendar ahead of time: If a new hire is feeling awkward at first, a social calendar — even if the next event is a month or two away — will help them feel connected and offer some excitement and anticipation.
Encourage local coworking: Make it part of the culture that employees are welcome — and encouraged — to cowork locally if they live in the same area. You can encourage this with something simple like allowing a $10 expense for coffee or paying for a day of coworking. Have a bunch of parents working at your company? Encourage folks to co-work (safely) at The Workaround where they can get down to business and not have to balance childcare simultaneously.
Adjusting to a new reality
Transitioning from a career in the office to a new all-remote job can feel like a shock. It’s not the big things, necessarily, but the little things. Suddenly, you have no physical water cooler or coffee machine to naturally meet new people. You don’t even have to ask where the bathroom is (weird, but it’s true). Those subtle differences are enough to make someone feel like they don’t belong.
Whether the candidate going through the transition or the company hiring them, this transition doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for anyone. As everyone gets used to this and builds the initial transition pathway, things get easier not just for the company but for all future employees.