Orientation 101 for telecommuters

A standing ritual of starting a new job is the human resources orientation. Peppered with PowerPoints and a walking tour of the office kitchen, orientations for new hires can be instrumental to helping an employee settle into the workplace culture, understand expectations and meet new coworkers. Some of those experiences might be curtailed in a virtual office, where knowing one's way around the company cloud trumps learning the layout of a physical office. However, managers of telecommuting operations can consider these tips to make the orientation experience as personable as possible:

1. Aim for facetime. Employees will feel welcomed to the team if you step up conferencing on their first day. This can mean arranging a physical meeting in an office space, or designing the orientation as an interactive Skype video call. Either way, connecting with the hire sets an engaged tone from the outset. 

2. Give a thorough tech overview. Telecommuters' most important skill set is operating data storage, document sharing, communications and other tech platforms that allow a virtual office to run smoothly online. An employee's first day is the ideal time to set them up with the best practices for navigating the web and tech architecture. 

3. Make introductions. A "welcome so-and-so to the company" email might feel a bit generic to a new employee. Instead, arrange 15 minute get-to-know-you sessions with key staff with whom the hire will interact on the job. This can kick off relationships and prevent miscommunication in the future. 

4. Put materials in the cloud. In standard offices, employees are inundated with a lot of paper and information on their first day, from staff handbooks to rubrics of vacation time and pay periods. Using Dropbox or Google Drive to share a folder of orientation materials will help the hires answer their own questions down the road. 

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