Skillsoft Blog

Replacing Handshakes with Virtual Waves: Onboarding In a Remote Environment

July 16, 2020 | by Amanda Papavasiliou

If you’re like me, you have recently started your first job or internship from your childhood home due to COVID-19. Weeks before starting my internship as the world began shutting down, I realized I had to endure a daunting task — navigating a remote workplace.

My entire life, I had been taught that first impressions are a vital part of success in a corporate setting. I was taught how a firm handshake represents confidence, trustworthiness, and reliability, how eye contact shows that you are attentive and eager to learn. These are examples of interpersonal communication — forms that we so heavily relied on and are no longer as applicable during video interactions.

So, how on earth can I make a good first impression virtually?

Tips Before Your First Day

For the first time, interns or recent college graduates starting in the workplace are embarking on their first day from their childhood bedroom, surrounded by distractions that wouldn’t have existed in the workplace.

Working from your home presents a new environment that gives your employer a different view of your life. When you are on video calls, whatever background you have is what the rest of the individuals on the call will see. I chose to work downstairs in my home because it gave me a constant simple background, and I knew I was in a space I wouldn’t be easily distracted.

Once I reported to my first meeting, it was difficult because I didn’t know how to contribute to the virtual meetings actively. I would wait to be introduced and felt almost like a fly on the wall, observing what everyone was doing and taking notes. Over time, I started to get more confident and would try to contribute to conversations when I saw fit and had a set of routine meetings that I attended. Individuals became more familiar with who I was, as well.

The image above is the course I used in Percipio to help better affiliate myself with how to use Microsoft Teams.

Another experience I had to navigate due to being remote was how to learn how to use platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, and Asana. I was lucky to use an infinite number of courses displayed from Microsoft teams on Percipio, Skillsoft’s learning platform. Percipio offers many resources on how to use the Teams platform correctly, which enabled me to schedule meetings, navigating where files would be held and, most importantly — the gifs!

Using platforms like Asana and Salesforce, I needed the training to use them correctly. But before my training, I went onto the platforms, familiarized myself with the material, so I had the basics of the site down when I was learning the correct function for the overall website.

Above is an example of how an individual would set up a campaign in Salesforce. Browsing through the site before my training gave me more context of the primary goal to use the site- to market better to customers.

I wanted to share a few tips I have learned so far from my internship that has helped me along the way! A few suggestions I have for fellow interns that I have learned so far are:

  • Ask questions! Your managers know that you don’t have experience with these new platforms you’re using. Asking questions allows YOU to learn more quickly and better understand the tasks being asked of you.
  • If you ever find yourself in a lull of not having a lot of work in the beginning, take this time to explore the background materials and existing content you have access to. When I first started, I went through the Microsoft Teams chat and files, which taught me so much about my company’s goals and some of the strategies they were planning to use to accomplish these goals.
  • Make sure to log onto whatever platforms are being used for communication in advance to troubleshoot any issues you may run into.
    • For example, Zoom sometimes has a password section which you will need before the meeting starts.
  • When on the first team calls, if the timing seems fit, introduce yourself! Putting yourself out there is always hard, especially in this new work environment, but remember if you were in the office, you would have met these individuals anyway. They all would have been excited to be able to interact with you.
  • Try your best to get involved — everyone knows how challenging a time it is right now, but you may be surprised what kinds of ideas you have that will be appreciated and beneficial for the company. Remember, you bring a different perspective than so many of your new colleagues!
  • Take time to learn what different individuals prefer for communication methods and gauge how you send out your materials.
    • For example, at my organization, we use Microsoft Teams as a constant method of communication. I know if I need a quick answer to a question, reaching out to a member over teams Microsoft Teams is the best method.

Tips on How to Limit Distractions

Working from home brings a whole new set of distractions that we don’t usually deal with. Our families, phones, pets, the comforts of our home, and so many others depend on where you are working. After LOTS of trial and error, I’ve found these tips to be the most effective in limiting distractions throughout the workday.


  • Try physically moving your phone out of your line of sight.
  • Give yourself time restraints of how long you will go, not looking at the phone so you can focus for some time.
  • Place your phone on do not disturb.
  • Since no one is there to monitor how much work you’re getting done, you defined parameters on the phone’s use and hold yourself accountable.


  • If you get sent a work laptop, ONLY use it for work.
  • If you want to check any of your social media or shopping, etc. don’t do it on your work computer. Respect that your work laptop is only used for your job/internship.


Meet my Co-worker, my dog, Chase! Every morning he comes into the area I work at and sits with me throughout the day.
  • If you have a set schedule, communicate with your family or roommates if you have created time frames where they won’t come into your workspace.
  • If you have an important meeting or presentation, let them know ahead of time so you won’t have to worry about noise or disruption.

Overall, onboarding will be a more straightforward process if you start with a good foundation of limiting distractions for yourself and being an active, attentive learner.

Remember, everyone is navigating this new work life…you aren’t alone! The onboarding process is going to be different, and you might not be sure what to expect in your time at your internship or beginning your job. Focus on the tasks you can accomplish that day, and remember to cut yourself some slack! This new virtual reality is challenging, but it isn’t impossible! Take this experience day by day and know it will get more comfortable, as we are all adapting together.

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