Soul of Startups
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Soul of Startups

10 Ideas to Make “Day One” Special When Your Team is Remote

I believe in a big day one. I call it Radical Welcoming and it’s something I’ve thought a lot about along with my colleagues Natty Zola and Zach Nies. We were inspired by a book called, “The Power of Moments” which talks about elevating important moments to make them stand out and to set the tone. More on what we did around our day ones here.

Since then, more companies than ever are adding remote workers, and even those with strong day one sequences are having to adapt to a new remote world. So I thought of some things I would standardize and elevate to make for a great remote day one.

Image by chenspec from Pixabay

1) Day One Delivered. Have everything arrive at their door on or before their first day. Depending on your budget, it could include a desk and chair, a computer with the right accessories, etc. What do the need to take off running?

2) Welcoming Them by Welcoming the Whole Person. Help their house (or coworking space) also feel like your office. Having the right things there on day one is only possible if you did some fact finding beforehand. Did you ask them when they accepted the offer letter what equipment they needed and preferred? Did you ask about food preferences and allergies? What size hat/shirt do they wear? What are their pronouns? How about an onboarding that feels a little personal? Now that they have the job, what are names of the people in their house (partner/kids/dog)? What would it feel like for everyone in the family to get something on their doorstep welcoming them to your company? If they are working from home, it means your not paying for an office, so make their home feel like an extension of your office. This should also include any company swag, shorts, hats, pens, jackets, whatever is your kit for new people, make sure it ends up there as well.

3) Take Lunch to Another Level. Since you can’t take them to lunch, either have someone deliver food to them for lunch or give them a code or card to pay for Doordash and set aside the time in the day to help them (and you!) get an order in. Make lunch a virtual affair. Is it awkward to eat on camera? Sure if you’re the only one, but please, would you not eat in front of each other if you were at lunch in-person?

4) Make Zoom Easy. Do the same meet and greets and one-on-ones you would if they were in person, but do it with one Zoom link, that way they get to stay in one place while others rotate in and connect. Any good calendaring wizard can do this.

5) Show Them the Virtual Ropes. Having one Zoom room for the day also means that one person who is guiding the new person can keep checking in. If you were day one at a job, hopefully someone is pointing out the coffee pot and the code to use the bathrooms, think about the online equivalents. Here’s how we sign into this, are you able to see that, what questions do you have about this thing over here, and so on.

6) Everyone is at Their Own Computer. Do NOT make the mistake of being in-person on a day when you are onboarding someone who will be remote. Be remote with them. Feel what they are feeling. Put yourself in their Zoom shoes. Same thing for anyone you ask to join the zoom room throughout the day- EVERYONE is signed in on separate computers, avoid the temptation to mix in-person and remote. Making everyone equal is an important practice every day, but it’s especially important to set the tone the first day. You belong, you are one of us, you are equal.

7) Do the IT Stuff Ahead of Time. Have a punch list for every service they might need, email, work management, team communication, etc. Don’t spend the day creating tickets for IT to help someone new, that should already be done.

8) Send the Paperwork Before They Start. The employee handbook, the retirement plan, industry primers, company materials, etc. Send them all as soon as the offer letter is signed. If they need to show they have looked at it and approve, figure out a way they can without needing you. And make it ok if they need some time on day one to complete those things. It’s not about requiring work before work starts, it’s that some people FEEL BETTER if they FEEL PREPARED. If you just hired that person, they will feel prepared having done a few things.

9) Make Hay with Emojis. 🎉 👋🏻 👏 Welcome them in your communication platform. In Teams or in Slack, add some details about the new hire- what they’ll be doing, what team they are joining along with a couple of fun facts about them to make them more relatable and connect with other team members. Then pile on the emojis and comments to make them feel welcome. Shine the spotlight, make it part of company culture to make a fuss. The extra mile would be having a photo of them to share with the team that they’ve given you. Did you get that from them in the onboarding? Did you already set them up in Slack? The work of making a magical remote day one happens BEFORE the big day.

10) Add Fun to Day One. Add some fun in the day and make sure to take breaks. When you’re at an office, you can usually find a corner to take a moment before you go back to everything being new. Give the same grace to your new online employee. Build in 15 minute breaks so they can process the firehose of information. Bonus points for building in something social that works remote. I like doing remote jigsaw puzzles and photo scavenger hunts as a team, but that’s just me. Anything will do, but keep the bar low and remember you haven’t built much mutual trust yet, so keep the asks to be vulnerable at low or nothing.

More than anything, a great day one is curated to make someone feel special, like they matter to you and to the company. It takes planning and preparation, but it’s so worth spending one day to really set the tone for the next hundreds or thousands.

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Julie Penner

Julie Penner

Founder and author of Soul of Startups and #Ruleof5. Venture Partner at Frazier Group. EIR at Telluride Venture Network. Coach. Facilitator. Challenger.

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