3 ways to replace your "office tour" in a virtual world

Replacing your in-person office tour with a virtual office is not difficult. It's time to rethink the office tour!

 min. read
July 26, 2021

Once upon a time, in a long forgotten era, a majority of knowledge workers were required to show up at a physical location for their first day (and many days after that) for their job. While going "all-in on remote work" has been discussed at length in the last 18 months, the one major benefit to showing up at a physical office or work site for your first day of onboarding was the ability to physically be shown around. Maybe you were lucky enough to work somewhere cool enough to have a slide in it, but chances are your office environment was more "corporate".

As a brand new employee, that office at least gave you a physical space to anchor yourself too. All those nervous and uncomfortable feelings could be associated to a space you arrived to and left each day. So in a virtual world, how does one receive an "office tour" during onboarding?

While you are welcome to ditch the physical part of an office, giving someone a tour is still an important step in sharing the culture of the company and the environment that new employee is walking into. The "virtual office" stands-in for what was once a physical location. It is where work is done, where information is stored and accessed, and where interactions take place.

Here are a few suggested stand-ins for that (yawn) office tour:

1. Show them the virtual office

While some companies may be done with the idea of gathering employees in dusty high rises, the idea of the office lives on in virtual forms. A lot of companies might consider their virtual office to be their assorted Google Drive or Confluence, others might argue Slack takes that title. While these are generally great for storing and sharing information that can be asynchronously updated. Newer entrants in this space, such as Notion or Guru, add that missing organization layers to information stores.

As we head into the bright remote future of work, startups like Workfrom or Lobby are looking to recreate some of the upsides to a physical office environment by helping teams connect and chat.

Regardless of what you consider your virtual office to be, in lieu of a physical office tour, show your new employees around these information stores yourself. While not the most exciting meeting, showing new hires around as early in their onboarding as possible (there is a reason the office tour took place on day 1!) opens the door for them to explore for themselves when left with a bit of free time. By waiting to long to do this, your employees could theoretically be lost roaming the virtual hallways aimlessly.

2. Break it down by department

One thing you can reproduce from the original office tour is to show new hires around each department.

In a virtual world, this could mean showing them the specific knowledge bases maintained by each department, what applications each team may use, and, most importantly, introducing new employees to someone from each department to interact with and learn from. While some, or maybe most, of the information presented during a department introduction may not be relevant to the new employee's day-to-day role, the scope and understanding it gives the new team member has profound and far reaching impact. Here is an Aboard presentation template that any department can use to explain what they do!

The idea of "department specific" folders typically starts to form in the earliest days of a company's inception. As long as things are kept to an acceptable level of organization & relevance, this can be an early win for any startup to include in their onboarding plan!

3. Use your product instead

While you may not have a multi-storey, professionally designed office to show off to new employees, you may have a multi-functionally, professionally engineered product or service. While the idea of giving new employees a product demo during onboarding is nothing new, changing the lens on it may shake things up for the better.

In the similar way you may have new employees run around during an office scavenger hunt as part of their first day or week, turn that energy and creativity onto your own product or service. Here at Aboard, we give each new employee a detailed scavenger hunt that they must complete in their first week. This is fully new employee-directed and self-paced. The outcome? The new employee becomes familiar with how the application works, is able to make suggestions for improvements, and feels more connected to the organization's offering.

The 'All Aboard' Scavenger Hunt is how we get our new employees familiarized with our platform.