On my experience in remote onboarding/work

Ignacio Vergara Kausel published on

5 min, 869 words

Categories: misc

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

At the beginning of November 2020, I started a new job 🎉. This was great, mainly because in mid April I was indefinitely furloughed in my previous company, and that didn't change until the last day. Being furloughed wasn't that bad, I still had a state supported salary equivalent (slightly better) to unemployment benefit, and I kinda got to have an extended parental leave with my almost 1-year-old son. Moreover, this allowed my wife to make good strides on her own career.

Now, starting in November means starting in the middle (figurative speech, since we don't know when this situation will end) of a global pandemic. This makes some things somewhat different, namely, remote work and particularly remote onboarding. Remote work is not something I'm against, although it wasn't something I was searching for.

However, remote work to work must be accompanied by a company culture around remote work, which is not easy to create and takes time, effort, and intention. Moreover, forced remote is different than voluntary remote [1]. Personally, I've found it difficult at times to get back into working mode after almost half a year at home not working and while being alone at home. Luckily daycare is, for the most part, still working here. Now almost half a year over, it's working good.

The part which has been somewhat more difficult was the onboarding. Primarily, the cycle of having a problem, formulating a question, getting an answer, and acting on said answer takes much more time. Also, the feeling of being part of an institution takes much longer to grow.

I have no idea how to improve the whole remote process during a global pandemic; that's certainly not part of my direct job. However, as a coworker, I might help new hires in my direct team in the future. So, when faced with ignorance, the best idea is to educate yourself. Probably, the first place I'd think of as a good starting point would be to check some of the published books by Basecamp, which is a highly well regarded remote-first company. For example, Remote. I'm certain that there must be more books, blog posts, podcast episodes [2], [3], and even scientific articles covering this kind of topics. Although they might be a great way forward, the current global circumstance makes everything harder and different. Even Basecamp tends to perform the onboarding process for at least some of its new employees (if not all) in an on-site fashion (missing reference for this one, not sure where I read/heard it... most likely in one episode of their Rework podcast).

For all the unpreparedness, there have been efforts to include some socializing activities, principally among the new hires in my current company. A few 1-on-1 meal sharing, a virtual board game session, and a group hangout. And although this has been great, there is plenty of room to improve, particularly in a long term fashion. I also recognize that personal effort should be part of it, and in that department, I should improve. Until now, I've been very open to do social video calls with coworkers, but I haven't been initiating them. What I did initiate was a chat with a colleague from another department, which whom I share similar family situation, which graduated to a lunch break, and now to a weekly lunch-break-plus-book-club.

Moving into being a remote company/institution is easy; send them home with a laptop. Plenty of companies and institutions were forced to do so. But doing it effectively it's way more challenging. Still, I'm grateful for being in an industry that is still hiring and can do remote work even when it's not fully well-executed because that's something that can be fixed.


I did initiate writing this over a month ago, and things tend to stay as drafts for a long time with me. Anyhow, in the meantime, while chatting with a coworker from our client, I realized that this situation of forced remote working actually benefits me at some level.

Some background information, the company I work for is a quantitative consulting company. The keyword here is consulting.

As it's quite customary in this kind of job, quite a few of my direct coworkers don't live where our client is located (not my case). Meaning that they lived out of an hotel during the week, and skewed towards younger people without family responsibilities. This meant, being able to work until late and enjoying/participating of late group activities.

In my case, with two small children, working late and participating on that part of the consulting life would have been extremely difficult. I'd have really liked to participate, but more than once a week would have been virtually impossible. So, removing this possibilities from everyone, was a great equalizer for those who couldn't participate.