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How to coach and mentor in a remote work environment

 30 Nov 2021

The shift to remote working has thrown up numerous challenges, especially during the COVID era, such as feelings of isolation, decreased work/life balance, distractions and a lack of motivation. Personal growth can also be difficult in a remote setting where employees don´t have access to the same opportunities as being in a traditional office environment, such as networking, bonding and sharing experiences with co-workers.

Mentorship is critical to employee retention and satisfaction, employee inclusion and improved career outcomes. So how can you mentor when you´re working at a distance? Here are a few pointers.

Ensure Your Virtual Door Is Always Open

An open-door policy is one that encourages employees to come to managers or mentors for discussion about any issues or concerns. When employees don't have these opportunities, they feel left out, and relationships can become strained. Just because people aren't working in the same building doesn't mean they should have less access to mentors. 

The key is to stay connected by regular video or voice calls. Develop a reliable schedule that allows the mentor/mentee to talk to each other every week or couple of weeks. The time can be used to discuss any issues mentees may have, solve problems and track their progress.

Manage Expectations for the Remote Mentoring Relationship

When starting a virtual mentorship, both parties will need to establish their expectations. This may include deciding how often they'll meet and for how long, on what platform and setting up guidelines for contacting each other outside of these times.

Build Rapport

Establishing a good rapport is the first stage of mentoring but building it in the virtual world can be challenging. The best way is by communicating honestly, openly and freely by:

  • Encouraging mentor/mentee pairs to devote some time to chatting about things other than work. 
  • Allowing extra time for the "getting to know you" stage of the relationship.
  • Being reliable. That is, both parties turning up to virtual meetings when they say they will.  
  • Managers never cancelling one-on-one meetings. Reschedule if something crops up suddenly but never cancel because it can send the message that your mentee's time isn't important to you. 

For employees who were previously mentored face to face in the workplace but will now be working remotely, it's essential to continue to build on the rapport you have to strengthen your relationship. Therefore, stick to the same schedule and practices you have already established in the physical office.

Have A Plan B If Technology Fails

One of the challenges of virtual meeting sessions is that sometimes the technology can fail. Screen freezes and internet connectivity slowing down to a crawl during a meeting can frustrate both parties. Therefore, create a backup plan for tech issues, such as deciding what you will use if your go-to platform for virtual meeting sessions fails. This could be something as simple as going down the old-fashioned route and getting your mobiles out for a chat.

Conclusion

Mentoring remote employees doesn't have to be a watered-down version of in-person coaching, instruction and guidance. It can be just as valuable in helping employees grow, enjoy their work and do their best.

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