remote job consultationWe are offering free consultations on how to lead & manage remote teams during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn More

Tips For Onboarding a Remote Developer

a person showing tips for hiring a remote developer

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. Remote work is the now and the future. You can see it, you know it and you need it. That’s exactly why you’ve taken the plunge. You’ve done your homework and contacted an expert remote placement agency aka DistantJob and hired your remote developer. Onboarding a remote developer was on your list of things to do. Now you’re on 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 onboard a remote developer right.

4 Tips for Onboarding a Remote Developer

1. 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. Everyone 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,, Basecamp, Zoom, Coda and Google Docs. We request them to download / sign up for those apps ASAP and get familiar with them. When everyone’s on the same page, and in this case, on the same app, things become a lot more streamlined and easier!

At DistantJob we’re not fans of placing tools over processes – in fact, the simpler, the better. But only when everyone speaks the same workplace language.  can a proper communication model work.

2. Make It Clear That You Expect Them To Over-Communicate

When you’re talking about remote employees, there is no such thing as too much communication. There is always room for more communication within the working hours and with all those tools that we just mentioned, it should be faster and easier as well.. Getting regular feedback is the next best thing.

Every manager will have their own preference. I expect a daily agile-style report   on Basecamp at the start of the work period. This report needs to simply state what the day’s tasks are and if there’s any help needed with any of those. . This daily update is also visible across the team so it’s easy for other employees to keep a check on duplication of tasks to avoid confusion or if they can help each other in any way. 

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, along with a task tool like Basecamp, also use Zoom for a virtual weekly team meeting to recap on all the completed tasks and to discuss the plan for the week ahead.

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 to not want to bother people, to keep our heads down and to not make any waves. This needs to be overcome because if this isn’t done, every little problem will snowball into something that is beyond repair. This is the start of the end of any kind of a team, project or business. Avoid this at all costs. Make sure your employees feel free to come to you as soon as they feel stuck. Be friendly and approachable to a healthy extent.

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 found either on Coda or in Google Documents where the team has easy access to it and there’s nothing that can get lost. We organize stuff so that, if someone needs to take a day off for any reason, anyone else can pick up the work.

3. 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. Prevention or rather, nipping it in the bud is better than curing a full garden of irreparable issues.

Disinfectants usually burn. 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 the new developer on your team gets 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 managed by 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 a hostile environment. It is especially even more true for development teams. Coding needs a collaborative environment so that your website or app is created quickly and efficiently. If the team’s don’t get along and aren’t comfortable with difficult conversations, you’ll have more bugs in your team than in the app.

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.

4. Check Your Checklist

Hopefully, you’ve prepared a to-do list for onboarding a remote developer. If not, it’s time to do so in order to not forget any important part of the onboarding process.

What should your checklist have? Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind.

  • The easiest one to remember is to send them a contract. If you’re hiring anyone remotely, it is best to send the contract as soon as possible to have transparency and clarity about the remote employer-employee relationship.
  • Create a checklist for them and send them the same over email. The tasks on the checklist could be spread out over the first month so that your new remote developer gets time to adjust and do things at a comfortable place. The checklist could have tasks such as signing the contract, downloading and signing into all the apps the company uses for remote work and communication, etc.
  • Send the developer a guide on remote work. This will help them understand remote work and lifestyle better.
  • Set up 1 on 1 virtual calls for the remote developer in order for them to get to know the team better.
  • Pair them up with a mentor who can work with the new remote developer for the first month. The mentor will help them understand their work and your work culture better.

Get Experts for Hiring and Onboarding a Remote Developer

Guess what? If you had hired with us, you’d know the above already. That’s because we at DistantJob go out of our way to make sure the developers 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? Get in touch with us..

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

or... Subscribe to our newsletter and get exclusive content and bloopers

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.
synchronous communication

Synchronous Communication and Your Remote Team

In this article, we will take a look at the potential problems that may arise when using synchronous communication rather than asynchronous communication; the importance of asynchronous tools being in sync; and the benefits of synchronous communication for you, your remote team and even your clients.

Read More »