With the global pandemic Covid-19 forcing businesses across the globe to operate remotely, teams are displaced and everyone is adapting to a new way of working.
In these unprecedented times, as we make our homes our offices for the foreseeable future, and as businesses are forced to furlough and let go of staff, having support and guidance across all areas of a business is more essential than ever.
With the world in such disruption, it’s easy to let office associated activities fall by the wayside. Company events and socials, coffee machine chat, team goal setting, programs and training – they all feel harder to maintain with everybody at home. However, it’s important to try and keep up a degree of normality and routine, even if that means coming up with new processes.
Virtual mentoring offers an highly effective solution under the current circumstances, helping foster a culture of open communication, knowledge sharing, generous leadership, and above all, human connection – which we know we all need to prioritise right now.
Here are just some of the ways virtual mentoring can specifically support remote teams during this time:
Mentoring is frequently used in organisations during any time of change, transition or transformation. Whether it's new management or systems, a structural overhaul or re-distribution, mentoring can help to re-establish a culture of community across the organisation in a short period of time.
Covid-19 is likely one of biggest ‘transitional periods’ businesses have ever faced, and so having a company culture where mentoring is the norm is more important than ever. Everyone will be dealing with this situation in different ways, and experiencing different challenges depending on their situation. Establishing a virtual mentoring program now will allow people to reach out to mentors within their organisation who can guide, support and advise them through those relevant challenges.
For organisations worrying that their mentoring programs will fall apart with everybody out of office, now is the time to re-engage your participants and communicate the benefits of mentoring again within the context of the global pandemic. We have some tips for promoting mentoring programs in our guide:
It's also important to establish and enable virtual mentoring. Luckily, everyone is getting into the habit of video meetings and conference calls, so mentoring sessions shouldn't be any different. Using a mentoring software will make the process of managing and tracking relationships easier, which is essential while we're all absent from the office.
On-boarding / Induction Mentoring
It’s a very strange time to start a new job, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Many people will be starting new positions from their dining table over the coming weeks and months, and so effective induction processes have never been more crucial.
Starting a new job can be daunting on a regular basis, let alone when you’re not going to meet any of your new colleagues face to face, or step foot in your new office, for potentially months.
Mentoring can be extremely valuable in these circumstances. By pairing a new joiner with a mentor on their first day, they have somebody who can show them the ropes in a friendly, relatable and patient way. In fact, providing multiple mentors so they have the option to reach out to different people for different queries will be even more valuable. A go-to person to support them in their role, somebody else to induct them into company culture etc. This will also increase their number of initial connections within the business, which is necessary seeing as they won’t be socialising face to face with everyone in the office for a while.
Managers will be under considerable strain at this time. Not only are they adapting their own routine, but are also responsible for their team’s output, productivity, and general wellbeing. It requires an increased level of communication, transparency and dedication. Many managers will be feeling overwhelmed and potentially out of their depth, and so it’s a critical time to ensure they have somebody to support and advise them, in the form of a mentor.
Naturally, a lot of managers’ time at the moment will be spent on video calls with their team, and so adding more virtual meetings to their routine for the sake of it is not productive. Instead, taking the time to identify individual managers' current challenges will help to create mentoring relationships that are truly beneficial, as opposed to a burden.
Mentoring can also work to transform managers into inspiring leaders, developing leadership skills such as communication, giving feedback, delegation and motivation. These kinds of skills are more valuable now than ever. With uncertainty and transition taking place, strong leaders will make a huge difference in team morale and productivity.
Research has shown that when managers are stressed or anxious, it filters down and impacts everybody in the team. The fact that mentoring increases self-awareness can consequently help managers mitigate this knock-on effect.
Many organisations run maternity and paternity mentoring programs, for new parents to feel supported in their transition back to work after having a child. With parents now working from home whilst simultaneously caring for their children and trying to homeschool them, this is a crucial time to offer support.
Offering parents mentors during this period will firstly show that the business acknowledges and empathises with their position, as well as having a positive effect on mental health, job satisfaction and happiness.
As many people will fit into this category, it may be a good idea to establish group, peer or team mentoring. This is where you have multiple people – mentors and mentees – sharing knowledge, learning together, and holding each other accountable. It essentially creates a formal support system, which will be highly beneficial for your team's progress (and sanity) during this time. You can read more about different types of mentoring here.
Stress Management Mentoring
Finally, mentoring can be highly impactful when it comes to stress management. Many people will be experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety at work right now. Whether it’s through fear of being let go, having too much or not enough to do, managing time and productivity, not to mention the fact that this virus has turned the world upside down – which alone is plenty cause for stress.
At its core, mentoring is about human connection. It’s about recognising and utilising someone else’s experience and skills, sharing knowledge and building relationships. That’s why research has also shown its positive effects on mental health. Mental Health Foundation lists mentoring in the workplace as a method of supporting feelings of isolation and anxieties about the future. Similarly, Harvard Business Review conducted a study researching the positive effects of mentoring, and found that people who served as mentors experienced lower levels of anxiety, and described their job as more meaningful, than those who did not mentor.
With this in mind, now is a crucial time to implement a culture of virtual mentoring in your organisation, to ensure people feel connected and supported.
These are uncharted waters for all of us. Let us continue to follow government guidelines, look after our people and customers, and above all, practice kindness 💜