Remote Onboarding Toolbox: Apps To Help the WFH Experience Shine.

It’s officially been a year (and some) since the COVID-19 pandemic started. And while every experience has been unique, with some WFH employees experiencing positive effects—77% reporting to feel more productive and 37% reporting at least a 40% increase of productivity—while others facing more difficulties with the blending of home and work environments—a reported 22% of employees have a hard time unplugging after regular work hours—there is one thing that companies and experts can all agree on all around: the Work From Anywhere model is definitely here to stay.

As the world continues onwards (or, as we like to put it, business as unusual), so does remote employee recruitment and remote onboarding. So we built a Remote Onboarding Toolbox, compiling a list of our favorite apps to support all your remote onboarding activities for a brighter (and hopefully breezier) WFH experience for new joiners. 

Of course, we recognize that all onboarding experiences are unique, and onboarding plans and budgets vary from company to company. To each their own! The below are purely recommendations, and we hope some of you find these useful.

Softstart’s Remote Onboarding Toolbox 🧰

At Softstart, we like to think we cover our basis by considering apps that cater to video conferencing, instant chat, creativity and socializing aspects of the day-to-day. Of course, these can just as much support the remote realities of existing employees as they support the onboarding experiences of new hires. 

Remember—whatever great tools you end up adding to your toolkit, the most important thing is to be creative with them in order to help create engaging experiences as workers continue to interact with each other remotely. The “new normal” can be just as fun, and perhaps, even better.  

Video Conferencing Apps 📹

Video-based communications have quickly become an integral part of remote work. While we all know that video is one of the most effective ways of sharing and registering new information, it has also become an essential part of humanizing a virtual setting that can easily feel isolating. 

From screen sharing, to synching web meetings directly to email and calendars, to recording live virtual meetings for those who can’t assist—today’s video conferencing platforms are able to host one-on-ones just as well as hundreds of attendees at a time. 

The larger number of attendees, the more important applying good video etiquette is—a new form of social conduct born of remote work culture, such as muting your microphone if you’re not speaking, or clicking the “raise hand” option to not interrupt the speaker. But video conference apps don’t have to be limited to catering work meetings. Inc.com suggests using these platforms for company culture building activities too, such as group meditation over lunch break. Perkbox proposes to host “show and learn” sessions, which can be both entertaining and educational.

How this can support your onboarding:

While a strong onboarding plan lists out tasks and milestones to help your new hire self-start, touch bases should be done over video rather than by email or chat for a more personal experience. Mentors and buddies assigned to guide onboardees and “show them the ropes” can do so more easily thanks to screen sharing features—it’s a lot easier to observe how someone else uses a program to create a report, for example, than it is to read written-out step-by-step instructions without any visual aid.

The Video Conferencing Apps We Love ♥️

→ Google meet
→ Zoom
→ Microsoft Teams

Instant Chat Apps 💬

On top of minimizing inbox overflow—studies have shown that employees spend an average of 13 hours a week dealing with emails alone—instant chat or instant message (IM) platforms have become an essential business tool, ensuring employees from all over the world can virtually connect and communicate with each other efficiently, securely and in a more organized fashion, keeping conversation threads separated by topic or groups and strengthening camaraderie.

It’s important to note we’ve lost “water cooler” opportunities in this new remote era—naturally occurring moments where colleagues can gather, connect and socialize in a physical workspace to chat about non-work topics. Encouraging similar opportunities in a virtual space is just as important, such as creating a dedicated chat channel for office chit chat along with work-related channels.

How this can support your onboarding:

An important aspect of onboarding is helping the new hire integrate the company culture. Instant messaging has been shown to help create employee connection in a virtual context, via direct chat or through groups, and enhance engagement. Creating a chat thread dedicated for the new hire’s onboarding can also ensure better tracking of objectives, milestones and questions, and where shared documents or helpful screenshots can stay pinned so the new employee can reference back to them if needed. Instant chat also features user profiles with pictures, which comes in handy when there are so many new faces and names to learn.

The Instant Chat Apps We Love ♥️

→ Slack
→ Discord
→ Microsoft Teams

Special shout out to: Discord

We love the platform for our informal meetings, spontaneous chats, morning coffees and other virtual social events. Discord makes transitioning from room to room, joining groups and seeing who’s connected easy!

Visual Workspaces for Creativity ✏️

Be it lists, spreadsheets, word documents or presentations decks, constantly looking at the same interface all day long can feel redundant and tedious, whether working in a real or virtual setting. 

Meeting on a collaborative whiteboard app (or web whiteboard) with a more interactive user experience can help spice up the meeting format, provide a visual break for employees, and promote creativity, replicating an environment similar to the classic brainstorm rooms of real offices. 

Facilitating remote workshops through a screen has never been easier, thanks to shared canvases, sticky notes and integrated timers. 

How this can support your onboarding: Web whiteboards can be used by HR managers to better and more concretely structure onboarding plans, aided by flowcharts, mind maps and wireframes. Additionally, onboarding feedback activities can be conducted through a virtual canvas, where notes and comments can be collectively added and categories, prompted by helpful questions within timed sprints.

The Visual Workspaces Apps We Love ♥️

Miro
→ Whimsical
→ Neatro

Special shout out to: Neatro

Our teams use this platform for improvement workshops and retrospective meetings. Neatro simplifies the process of building plans, as well as assigning and tracking the progress of action items to our team members. We love the Team Health Radar feature, which identifies our team’s strengths and improvement opportunities, while collecting data that helps us better understand where our teams are at.

Interactive Platforms for Socializing 🤝

As the proverb goes: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Indeed, employees need interactions with their colleagues that are not solely work-related, as positive work relationships have been shown to help reduce stress, as well as increase happiness, employee engagement and loyalty. 82% of employees have said that co-worker relationships greatly matter to them, and keeping those types of interactions going remotely is just as important. 

Don’t forget that healthy socializing between colleagues is just as good for individuals as it is for an organization’s bottom line—studies have also shown that companies who invested in establishing a strong company culture have seen revenue growth quadruple

Liberty Mind, a company that offers company culture coaching, discusses the importance of “changing it up” for employees once in a while, offering fun activities to help keep morale high. On top of virtual morning coffee spaces and hosting virtual happy hours, virtual games like photo challenges and Lockdown Bingo can work well remotely. The coaching company also suggests leveraging the entire staff to collect ideas for new remote activities. 

How this can support your onboarding:

Facilitate employee introductions and promote interactions through immersive social spaces or foster fun moments through team meetings with customized team quizzes. Plus, surveys can be tailor-made just for onboardees, collecting feedback on overall experiences in a different way than just through one-on-one meetings.

The Interactive Platforms We Love ♥️

Quizzes with Sli.do
→ Survey Monkey
→ Kumospace

Special shout out to: Kumospace

We’ve been really enjoying the environment simulation that Kumospace has offered, having allowed our teams to customize virtual offices and meeting rooms with cool decor and furniture. Not only is it a super function platform for breakrooms, but  it’s helped us spice things up for our client meetings too!At the end of the day, a strong company with a dedicated and engaged staff pushes forward vision, leadership, and commitment to employees—core values that are just as transferable in a virtual setting. It may just take a bit of re-thinking, adaptation, trial-and-error and some learning… but it is certainly doable and can come with some definite trade offs.

Recommended for you

Your new hires onboarding experience starts here.