The biggest challenge when onboarding remotely was getting a feel for the culture. Without this, you have to play it safe and act conservatively (i.e. maximally professionally), however it can be draining to always be so buttoned-up.
The two things that helped me feel more comfortable were:
1. Seeing “micro unprofessionalisms” during zoom calls.
One colleague had a large drawing of “No Face” from Spirited Away on his wall.
Another’s cat jumped onto the desk, and then a baby ran into the room.
Another just had a mess in the background.
All of these show humanity and personality. They let the new team member know that the tone is relaxed and that there’s no need to stress over behaving perfectly “professionally”.
2. Getting hints from coworkers about work norms.
I have a coworker that’s brutally productive. But one day he said, “I’m going to be out for a few hours this afternoon to get my trombone fixed.”
It’s easy to overlook such a remark if you’re been on the team a while. But for a new joiner, even small comments like this provide valuable insight into what is and isn’t acceptable on their new team.
To make your new team member’s remote onboarding experience more comfortable, be intentional about showing humanity — visibly display things that are unique to you (and un-blur your background). Also, remember that your team’s culture exists, must be learned, and can be proactively communicated.