3 Communication Tips For Onboarding Your New Remote Developer

Remote Developer Communication Tips

You’ve read up on the science that explains why remote developers are the right move for your company. You’ve dismissed concerns about remote work as the dying gasp of industry dinosaurs. You’ve done your homework and contacted an expert remote placement agency. You got the best people in the world.

Now you’re at day one. Your brand-new, world-class remote developer starts today! So…

Now what?

It’s a common issue when a business starts hiring international employees. Onboarding remote workers can be like what you would do with a regular permanent employee. But there’s sometimes a slight sense of disconnect. Sometimes, you’re left with a feeling that the new guy / girl is at a bit of a loss about how to get things done in the company.

As is common with remote workers, the trick is in the communication process. Here are the steps you need to take to get your new employee into your company’s information flow from day one.


Point Them To The Right Tools

Everyone needs tools to work. When your employee is remote, though, it’s easy to take for granted that they are using their own tools. And fair enough, most people have their own processes. Each has tools they use to get their work done on their personal workstation.

But people in your team have some specific tools they use to interact between themselves. It’s not a given that your new employee will be familiar with them.

At DistantJob, this is the first thing we take care of as soon as a new person comes in. We give them a list of tools we use to get work done. In our case, it’s Slack, Trello, Zoom, and Google Docs. We request them to download / sign up for those apps ASAP and get familiar with them.

We also have a person in charge of adding the newcomers to our paid service teams. She'll hand them business accounts when adequate.

We’re not fans of placing tools over processes – in fact, the simpler, the better. But it's important that everyone is on the same page and speaking the same language. Only then can a proper communication model work.


Make It Clear That You Expect Them To Over-Communicate

When you’re talking about employees who work at home, there is no such thing as too much communication. There will never be a point where you’re not glad to get a progress report from your employee. You won't often witness remote workers in the act of working. At least not in the same way that you can see a regular employee in your office. Getting regular feedback is the next best thing.

Every manager will have his preference. I expect an agile-style report via PM on Slack at the start and end of each work period. That’s a simple “Yesterday I did this, today I’m doing this, and I need help with that.” twice a day. A colleague prefers a daily update on each Trello card assigned to the people in his team. Your workspace, your rules.

Yet, it is smart to insert redundancy into the system. You can do this by communicating in many formats. A good rule of thumb is to use two different media for each piece of technical communication. For example, use both systems outlined above at the same time. Or ask for an email recap of the action-points decided during the Zoom conversation.

The point is: each piece of communication should exist in duplicate.

Also, tell your new employees to communicate challenges early and often. A lot of people butt their heads against a brick wall for days before they finally communicate a problem.

I’ve been guilty of this, too. Looking back, my biggest fails were due to waiting too long before deciding to escalate an issue.

Our natural state is no not want to bother people, to keep our heads down and to not make any waves. Make sure your employees feel free to come to you as soon as they feel stuck.

Finally, ask them to document everything. This is super important when we’re talking about managing remote developer jobs. This means that every bit of code should be shared and made available to the team. Always comment code. Keep every piece of the puzzle right where anyone can see them.

At DistantJob, every document, image or media file is linked to the task’s Trello card. We organize stuff so that, if someone needs to take a day off for any reason, anyone else can pick up the work.


A Further Note On Escalation: Encourage It!

This is important enough that it warrants its own section: most problems are like wounds. You can solve them easily enough, early on. Some treatments may result in a greater degree of discomfort than others. But after it’s done, you’ll think: “That wasn’t so bad after all.”

But you see it’s a tiny problem, and the discomfort of taking care of it is bigger than what it causes by itself. So you think “I'll take care of it later. Or “It will go away if I wait it out.” But it won’t. If you don’t disinfect a wound, even a small one, it will fester. Problems are the same.

Disinfectant usually burns. Their business equal is organizational communication. A good communication process cures (almost) all ills. Communication is easy when it’s about stuff that has been done or is easily done. But it gets much harder when it’s about stuff that is broken and needs fixing.

What if people get defensive? What if people shove the problem back your way? Sometimes you feel that they have too much on their plate and you should not bother them.

How many of the above went through your head at least once? Well, your employees are a peg below you. If this kind of conversation makes you hesitate, how do you think they feel?

So you have to make them comfortable with escalation. Between them and you. Between them and their managers. Between them and their colleagues. Make sure they know that your business is a business where problems should get talked about. Where problems will get talked about, incessantly, until fixed. No matter how uncomfortable that makes people feel.

This is not a free pass to be rude, of course. Most companies cannot survive employees not liking each other.  People won’t do their best work if they feel they are in the hostile environment.

Tell your employees to be polite, to be gentle, but to be firm and unwavering. Uncomfortable conversations not only need to happen. They are the most important ones to have.

Always escalate, or tiny problems will grow to swallow the business whole.



Guess what? If you had hired from us, you'd know the above already. That’s because we go out of our way to make sure the people you hire get set up at your business. We want them to have everything they need to thrive.

We’re not about the transaction. Our work isn’t over when we find the perfect people for your remote programming jobs. We're about getting your team into the future of work. Need that awesome employee? Click here to get in touch

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Luis Magalhaes

Luis Magalhaes

Luis Magalhães is Director of Marketing and editor-in-chief at DistantJob. He writes about how to build and manage remote teams, and the benefits of hiring remote workers. He‘s been managing editorial teams remotely for the past 15 years, and training teammates to do so for nearly as long.

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