While companies have been onboarding remote employees for years, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world’s workforce to change dramatically. In these unprecedented times, thousands of people have transitioned from working in the office to working remotely in order to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Making this transition can be difficult, especially if your company has never had to work remotely. Below is a virtual onboarding checklist that will help you onboard and manage new remote team members effectively. 


Finding Remote Employees

The first step to the remote employee onboarding process is to actually find people to do the job. While some companies will simply be able to have their regular employees performing the same tasks from the comfort of their home, others may need to find specialists with experience in this field of work.

Your first option is to try and find some reliable freelancers, especially if you know you’re only going to need remote workers for a short period of time. You can do this by going onto freelancer forums, where you can either make a public post asking about freelancers with experience in your field or directly contact them through private messaging. You’ll need to keep in mind that freelancers usually have their own hourly or per project wage expectations, which may be higher than you would normally pay your employees since they have specific experience in remote work.

If you prefer to set the wages yourself, don’t need someone super experienced, or want to hire someone that will be able to join the office eventually, try simply posting an advert on job board websites. Make the posting incredibly clear, outlining every responsibility the person will have, what requirements they’ll need to meet, and the expected wages they’ll be receiving. Most importantly, highlight from the very beginning that this will be a remote position and that it will require a private computer with access to the internet - you’ll be surprised at how many people without the right equipment will simply send you their CV without reading further than the first paragraph or so.


Onboarding Remote Employees

Once you have some candidates for the remote position, you can begin holding interviews. How you go about this will largely depend on the type of role you’re trying to fill and what sort of person you’re looking for.

Say you’re a local newspaper company that’s looking for a writer who can create a few articles a week. You’ll probably be able to get away with communicating through emails or a freelancer platform, rather than having to schedule a video or phone interview. You’d have to ask the candidate to send over some examples of their previous work, or a sample of what they can do so you can assess their capabilities. Then, once they’re hired, you’ll be able to just send them some instructions and wait to get the articles back.

However, if the position you’re looking to fill is more complex than just entry-level work, the interview process will need to be much more rigorous. Schedule at least one video or phone interview with each candidate, asking them why they applied for the position, what experience they have in remote working, and what their expectations are.

Once the interview process is over, you’ll need to think about drafting up contracts. If you’re planning to work with a freelancer, for example, it’s easier to work on a commission basis rather than a longer-term contract. In general, contracts for a remote team will be almost identical to regular contracts, with the only difference being the place of work listed and possibly the hours the employees will be expected to work. Whatever you do, make sure to stick to your local laws regarding remote worker contracts.


Establishing A Work-Life Balance

Working from home is a huge change that can be quite hard to get used to. Establishing a healthy work-life balance for both employers and employees is incredibly important when engaging in remote work, and can help everyone to adjust to the new lifestyle a little better.

Most importantly, try to have established working hours, just like you would at the office. This will not only make it easier to track when everyone is working, but it will also help your workers stay motivated and prevent them from feeling like they’re working every minute of the day. Naturally, you will need to be a bit more flexible when it comes to schedules for remote workers - they may not be able to commit to a regular 9-5 job, which is why they’ve decided to work remotely.

When hiring new remote team members, make sure that they actually have the right equipment and environment for the job - simply ask some questions during the interview process about the computer they use and where in the house they’ll be working. Keeping work separate from private life will help boost morale and will promote better mental health in your employees, so do keep this in mind if a candidate tells you they usually work from their bed. Of course, everyone works differently, so don’t immediately bin someone’s CV because they don’t have a home office, and instead use all of the information they give you to make an informed decision.


Managing A Remote Team

This is probably the hardest part of having remote employees. How are you supposed to make sure they’re working their assigned hours, and that they’re managing with the workload?

Firstly, invest in a high-quality employee schedule management software that will help you to track the hours your employees work. This will help them stay on task and will make payroll a much easier job for your company. However, if you plan on onboarding some freelancers that will be getting paid per project rather than hourly, this may not be necessary.

Next, to make sure everyone is sticking to deadlines and managing with the workload, ask your remote employees for daily or weekly updates. Just a simple message outlining what tasks they completed over a certain period of time will help the company stay on top of everything, especially since working from home can make you feel like you have all the time in the world.