How to improve remote employee onboarding during the COVID-19 pandemic? — Part I

Kamila Kołaczkowska
4 min readMar 7, 2021
covid-19 remote work

It all started on the 20th of March, 2020, when the Minister of Health announced a state of epidemic in Poland. Before this day, only 1,9% of employees worked 100% remotely (5 days a week).

After the COVID-19 outbreak, this number increased 45 times — to 85,6%!

As studies show, because of remote work, many employees suffered from such problems, as:

  • isolation and lack of direct contact with coworkers (69%),
  • disrupted balance between work and personal life (54%),
  • difficulties in concentration due to other family members (26,3%),
  • weak Internet connection (17,7%).


To dive deeper into the subject, we conducted 14 in-depth interviews (10 with employees and additional 4 with team managers to get a wider perspective). We wanted to find answers to the following questions:

  • how did remote work affect onboarding and integration with the team?,
  • how can we improve onboarding and team integration?,
  • what causes problems for employees and team managers during remote onboarding and team integration?.

The interviews allowed us to distinguish 4 problematic fields of remote work: productivity, onboarding, social relations, and communication.


Flexible working hours desynchronize teamwork and task planning because you don’t know when somebody is actually available on the other side of the screen. 6/10 employees said that a good solution would be to allow them to update their availability status.

Updating your status — whether you’re available or not — is crucial cause it’s cool to know if somebody, at a specific moment, can quickly respond or is busy and doesn’t want to be interrupted.

Another problem is prolonged responsiveness. While working side-by-side with a colleague allows you to quickly ask him a question, working from home makes it easier for him to ignore your messages. Waiting for someone else's response or feedback can be really frustrating because it can slow down our work.

If he had his desk next to me, I’d walk up to him, but now I just have to wait a bit longer for his response.


Remote onboarding doesn’t have the same quality as stationary onboarding — it’s a challenge both for employees and managers. Why? Because remote communication is more difficult and some companies lack proper organization.

New people, new environment, new job, new apps to learn, plus everything is remote — I was just full of stress. I have to do many things intuitively cause we don’t have a clear workflow.

New employees are confused because they have no access to organized information about their company. Some of them felt as if they were thrown into the deep end. They often lacked knowledge and didn’t know to whom and when they could speak to get information.

Chaos and confusion. The first weeks were absolutely horrific for me cause nobody knew what was going on.

Social relations

The biggest problem for employees is building relations and integrating with the new team. Remote work affects our sense of belonging to a group of people and makes it difficult to build deeper relations with coworkers. Because we can’t meet up in the corridors or the kitchen, it’s hard to start a loose, private conversation.

We’re just anonymous people saying “Hi” to a photograph.


70 to 93% of communication is nonverbal. With that in mind, it’s more difficult to interpret someone else’s message while talking to him through a screen. Because employees can’t meet each other face-to-face, they have trouble interpreting emotions, speech styles, or even sense of humor. It's hard for them to get a sense of their coworkers’ personalities.

Honestly I’d rather see somebody else’s face and reactions. I can, for example, get in my head that Anna doesn’t like me because she stares strangely at me during Zoom calls…writing is just dehumanizing.

The lack of direct communication hinders information flow. Many employees are afraid to ask questions whenever they encounter problems. Why? Because they have to wait longer for a coworker’s response and are scared that they'll interrupt somebody else’s work. Some employees stated that they learn slower because they don’t have a more experienced coworker by their side.

If we worked from our office, it’d be much easier to notice that he’s getting frustrated by his computer, and we’d offer him our help.

Employees have smaller awareness of what’s going on in the company. Lack of integrations and spontaneous lunch conversations limit the flow of information within an organization. Employees focus solely on their work and have no idea about other projects that are carried out in the company.

Relations with coworkers from other projects have vanished. From the company’s point of view, there’s a much smaller awareness of what’s going on.


What we can do to improve the experience of remote onboarding and team integration?

  1. Encourage employees to inform other coworkers about their availability and working hours.
  2. Remind employees about messages they haven’t responded to.
  3. Educate employees about remote work and their company’s communication rules.
  4. Create an organized information base about a company and its structure.
  5. Create a space where employees could easily report problems and ask for help.
  6. Encourage employees to take breaks from work together and have loose conversations.
  7. Make it easier for managers and workers to organize team integrations.