A year ago, it was unfathomable for most to imagine working from home full time, and although we hope the end of our time in lockdown is now in sight, many workplaces especially in the games industry, have made the decision to continue with remote working for the foreseeable future, if not forever. This means that for the first time, a new job won’t always mean a tour around the office and welcome drinks at the pub, but instead a desktop computer being delivered to your front door and a Friday afternoon quiz to get to know your new colleagues.
It can understandably be more daunting for new starters to get to grips with a new role when at home by themselves so we spoke to people who have started remote roles over the past year to find out what studios can do to support new people when they’re starting a new job remotely.
Or if you’re about to start a new job yourself, make sure to keep an eye out for these things and get involved wherever you can!
It’s a great idea to encourage employees to set up an area purely for work for them at home (if possible). This will enable them to set boundaries and leave work behind at the end of the day. Another great tip is to suggest a rearrange in their ‘office’ if they were working from home in a previous role, to give the feeling of a fresh start.
Being able to set up your workspace before your first day is essential for feeling prepared, so as a studio, make sure all equipment is sent out in plenty of time to allow new starters to get organised and even have a dry run of the morning setup to allow them to iron out any kinks.
Fortunately, most studios in the games industry seem to have taken the unchartered territory of COVID in their stride with many offering flexible working hours, mental health seminars, and ongoing support to improve wherever possible. As a studio, it’s important to consider policy changes to make WFH more comfortable for your employees, for new starters, these considerations could mean the difference between feeling isolated and unsure, and warmly welcomed into a new role.
In normal times, relocation for a new job in the games industry is very common and whilst some are still relocating during this time, in a lot of situations it makes more sense for new employees to work from home until it’s easier to relocate – or forever!
This means that on top of the usual reasons for people to work flexibly, new starters could be working from different time zones than some other members of the team. With new starters, it can therefore be helpful to check in about working hours and explain any flexibilities or exceptions for those in different time zones as well as being extra clear about meeting times for those people.
Several of the people we spoke to describe a buddy system implemented by their new workplace for their first few weeks on the job. This offers new starters the opportunity to have someone to turn to who isn’t their boss who can be a first stop for any questions and get to grips with the culture. Many have found this extremely helpful and suggested this is something all companies should offer if they don’t already.
Introductions and open communication
The chance to introduce yourself to your team (and ideally the whole company), as well as having the chance to learn everyone’s names and roles is invaluable on your first day!
But this can’t be the be-all end-all of communication between co-workers. Informal communication is one thing that almost everybody mentioned as something that was pivotal to allow them to feel welcomed and settle in. This includes casual instant messaging chats, asking quick questions to your peers, and most popularly ‘coffee break’ or ‘watercooler chat’ calls. With some companies even making these meetings mandatory to keep the social aspect of work alive, having calls to discuss anything other than work proves extremely popular in enabling new starters to slot into the culture of their new team.
Virtual social events
By far the number one most mentioned thing was online social events! A Friday afternoon quiz, virtual parties and game nights have all gone down a storm with remote starters. The perfect way to feel welcomed into a new team is with some fun, ice-breaking, and non-work-related activities.
Whilst for the most part it seems that studios are doing very well at adjusting to welcoming new team members through a laptop screen, there’s always room for improvement. If you’re a studio looking for ways to help new employees feel welcome when they start remotely, these tips will be a great place to start.
A few to mention are ensuring everybody has a webcam and is encouraged to turn it on during meetings - it can be very isolating for new starters to only have names on a screen to go by! Another one is to provide all hardware and equipment the new starter might need right from the start. This avoids back and forth at a time when the new starter should be focusing on other areas of their job.
If this is something your company offers, send them some swag! If there’s one sure fire way to make someone feel part of a new team, it’s wrapping them up in a company-branded hoodie whilst they sip from their company-branded water bottle. Of course, sending presents without offering the other things we’ve discussed here probably won’t do the job – but it’s the perfect cherry on the top of your welcome wagon!
Introductions to everyone!
Introductions to immediate team members and the directors are essential. You don’t want newbies to end up feeling lost and awkward, having to ask “err sorry, who’s this?” in the middle of a meeting.
But aside from introductions to team members, many suggested introductions to the whole company, at least broadly, would have been a huge help to make them feel able to feel at ease.
Make documentation and access to HR/IT readily available
It's proved really handy for new starters to be sent over all the documentation they might need in advance. Having a specific welcome pack for people starting remotely would be ideal here so that they can get to grips with how things will work day-to-day and come back with any queries or concerns. On top of this, offer contact information for HR and IT, so if something goes wrong it can be sorted quickly without having to go through a chain of people first.
More social events!
Once again, social events come out on top! While most studios do seem to offer some social activities, it seems that there literally can’t be too many opportunities for new people to mix with people on a non-work basis. A schedule of online events where everyone can input and have the chance to join in and even host is the number one way to help your remote starters integrate and become comfortable as quickly as possible. Casual chat is the way forward!
Encourage having a schedule
Maintaining a schedule is essential to stay motivated and focused, not to mention the mental health benefits. Therefore, as an employer it’s a great idea to encourage your employees to keep to a schedule during the work week. Get up, get dressed in clothing you might wear to the office, set times to have breaks and encourage them to take breaks outside – this will really help with concentration and not burning out.
No stupid questions policy!
This is true of anyone starting at a new company, but it can be particularly difficult when you have to reach out to someone online. As an employer, it you should be actively enforcing the idea that there are no stupid questions! It’s better for newbies to ask and get an answer than waste time trying to figure it out themselves so point out particular existing employees that will likely be happy to take a short break to say hello and answer any questions! If existing team members are very busy then you can suggest that they booking in a time for anything longer than a simple question, to avoid interrupting someone’s day.
In general, everybody we spoke to seemed to view the working from home experience positively, explaining that their new workplace has done all they can to be welcoming and make the transition as easy as possible into their new roles.
We’re sure that every company is trying their best to make new starters feel welcome - but why not pick something new here and add that to your plans? Your new employee will be very grateful, and it could be the one thing that really brightens their day!