Welcome kit: How to onboard remote employees
Interviews / Opinions

Welcome kit: How to onboard remote employees

, Former Content Marketing Manager

January 2019. Liz has landed a new job at a software company and this is her first day in the office. As she walks in, the office manager greets her with a big smile on his face and shows her where her desk is. There’s a welcome kit waiting for her. A brand new laptop, a mug with a funny quote for her coffee breaks with her colleagues, a notebook, and stickers.

Fast forward to January 2021. Another first day at work for Liz, only this time she’ll be working remotely. She wakes up, pours some coffee in her mug from her previous job, and turns on her personal laptop. It’s her first day, but it really feels like just any other day.

It shouldn’t be this way, though. Before the pandemic changed the way we work — and made us consider the benefits of permanent remote working — a new hire’s first day was simple. They would step into an office. They would have friendly faces (hopefully) and a desk with a computer (most certainly) wait for them. There would also probably be office supplies and someone to show them the ropes.

Joining a team certainly looks different nowadays. But it shouldn’t feel different.

Remote onboarding certainly simplifies many elements of regular ol’ onboarding. There’s less awkwardness. Less paperwork. But also, less of a personal touch.

That’s not OK. Onboarding remote employees should replicate the warm and fuzzy feelings of being welcomed to a team — as well as all the practicalities of it. Your new hires should feel connected from day one, not isolated and lost.

This is where a welcome kit comes in.

In this article we’ll talk about why you need to offer a welcome kit to remote employees and what you can (and should) include in it.

What you should include in your remote employees welcome kit

A welcome kit, also known as an onboarding kit, is more than just a “kit”. It signals your company’s commitment and respect towards your new hire. It shows you’re excited they’re joining your team. And this is particularly important when it comes to remote employees.

Just like Liz, remote employees may feel that their first day is nothing special — if they were used to working from an office. And while sending them a welcome kit can’t replicate the feeling of being in the same room, it’s a great start. Especially if the swag is thoughtful and geared towards the unique needs of working from home.

Below you’ll find some ideas on what to include in your welcome package, from the bare essentials to the “above and beyond”.

The essentials

Computer or laptop and mouse: Most people have their own computer or laptop at home nowadays. But that shouldn’t matter. If you wouldn’t expect onsite employees to carry their personal laptops to work every day, you shouldn’t expect a remote employee to work on theirs either. (That’s called a “freelancer”.)

Providing your new remote hires with their own company computer or laptop is not just a nice gesture; it’s also practical. That way, you can make sure all the programs and software they need are already installed and you can be more confident their computer won’t crash every time they have to be on a Zoom call.

A company phone and/or headphone set: This is situation-dependent. But if your new hire will be working on sales or customer service and is required to make several calls to clients every day, they shouldn’t have to use their own devices.

Is offering a new phone too big of a spend? Perhaps you can set up a call plan for your salespeople, instead. Can most of those business calls be handled online? Then a professional speaker/headset should be included in your welcome kit.

Orientation guide: You’ve probably already scheduled an orientation call with your new hire, but giving them a tangible guide they can consult whenever they have questions is still important. As this Training Industry article points out, an orientation guide is like a GPS for your new hires, so that they don’t feel lost on their first day.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be literally “tangible”.

It can simply be an online onboarding course on your LMS. New hires can access this course whenever they want and find a presentation of your company and values, an organizational chart, and the contact details of their fellow coworkers.

…which brings us to the next essential item.

Online courses: The purpose of an employee welcome kit is to make new hires feel appreciated. Well, working for a company that’s willing to invest in continuous development and training does that.

According to the latest TalentLMS remote work survey, 78% of remote employees who haven’t received training from their employers, wish they had. Depending on age, their specific needs alternate between hard skills training and soft skills training — but most agree they would complete training even outside of their working hours.

And it’s not just about job performance. Survey data shows that employees who’ve received training also feel happier while working from home and more valued by their companies.

So don’t wait until they’re more “settled” into their role. Introducing your LMS and your online courses from day one can only be beneficial to your new hires.

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The company swag

Not all companies are able to create and distribute company merch. And you certainly don’t have to go all out. But even one or two items from the list below will be a great addition to your welcome kit.

A mug or thermos: A mug is a staple when it comes to company merch. Companies like Meridian, for instance, include mugs among other swag in their welcoming kit.

But you could also opt for a thermos, travel mug, or water bottle. Many remote workers opt to work from coffee shops (when life and the pandemic allow it), so this would help them refill their beverages in style.

T-shirt or hoodie: This is a trickier item to include in your welcome kit when onboarding remote employees. On one hand, it will make for some nice team photos during your next Zoom call. On the other hand, though, getting a t-shirt or a hoodie that doesn’t fit, doesn’t exactly scream “welcome to the team”.

So if you can find a cost-effective solution that will allow you to be as size-inclusive as possible, go for it.

Notebook/pen: Notebooks and pens may feel like a superfluous item when all the work is done online. But much like handwritten notes, they will never go out of style. For many people, having a pen and some paper to jot down thoughts can be very helpful when they’re working from home where they don’t have all the necessary stationery available.

Headphones: In the age of constant Zoom calls (that, for many remote employees, coincide with homeschooling their kids) a pair of headphones helps create a noise-free work environment.

Mousepad or laptop sleeve: If you’re going to include only one company merch item in your welcome kit, this is one of the most practical ones.

Backpack: You could opt for a backpack instead of a laptop sleeve, especially if the plan is for remote employees to visit the physical office now and then.

The nice-to-haves

This new era of remote working has created new needs. But what are these, exactly? We asked respondents of the TalentLMS remote work survey to choose the top perks they’d like to receive from their employers. 75% of them said they could use a stipend to cover new office furniture for the home, while 65% would like a meal allowance to order lunch for delivery.

Remote work survey stats: Ideas for welcome kit | TalentLMS

Consider some (or all) of the below items and your welcome kit will make a big difference to your employees’ life.

Meal allowance or daily stipend to a delivery service: If your company provided a meal allowance or free lunch at the office before, it makes sense to adjust that tradition to the remote working era. You can offer a prepaid card for employees to get lunch, or even collaborate with a local delivery service to give coupons or daily credit.

A stipend to cover home office furniture: VP of Business Development at AdAction notes in this Forbes article how helping employees create a designated workspace a home could set them up for success. It’s very important to create boundaries between work life and home life, as any remote worker will tell you.

Membership to work-related websites, services, and media: This is a nice extra that, depending on your line of work, can make all the difference. If for example, your employees need to consult media like the Business Insider or the SHRM that have a paywall after a few articles, a subscription is both nice and practical.

The above and beyond gifts

In the same TalentLMS survey about remote work, there were some more perks that featured high up in remote employees’ preference. 58% of them would like a training/exercise course of their choice, while 53% of them would love a subscription to a streaming service like Netflix or Spotify.

Including some of the items below in your welcome kit will make you stand out from the rest.

Online workout: Be it yoga or CrossFit, working out from home has been a lifesaver for many. Frequent exercise breaks help with productivity and concentration so offering your employees access to online training is a great idea. Instead of — or in addition to — workout, you could offer access to mental health or meditation apps that can also boost employee wellbeing.

Gift cards to local shops: This not only helps strengthen the bond between new hires and the company, it also boosts the local economy.

Audiobooks and podcasts: Instead of sending one book to your remote workers, you could gift them with an audiobook or a podcast subscription. This way, they’ll have access to more resources, and your package will be lighter.

A Netflix or similar streaming service subscription: Not everything in your welcome kit has to be strictly work-related. By including a perk like that you show you value an employee’s free time — and discussing the latest episode from The Crown could be a nice topic for your next virtual watercooler chat.

A Spotify playlist with all team members’ favorite songs: Cheesy? Perhaps. Cheerful and inclusive? Most definitely.

Welcome packages: ready to deliver

Welcome kits don’t need to be expensive. Just pick something that is thoughtful, speaks of your company culture, and will make your new remote hires anticipate their first day.

It’s also important to plan your remote onboarding packages well in advance. You want new hires to receive all necessary equipment before their first day, so they’re ready to meet their new coworkers and take on their first tasks.

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Christina Pavlou - Former Content Marketing Manager

Christina, ex-Content Marketing Manager at Epignosis, focuses on L&D, diversity, and enhancing workplace well-being. Learn how to improve your work environment. More by Christina!

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