Covid-19 is changing the way many organizations operate for the foreseeable future. With social distancing, self-quarantining and the government imposed “shelter-in-place,” remote work is the new reality. How do corporate leaders, managers and individual workers adapt to this new reality? What role can a formal mentor program play in helping production continue?
The fact is, organizations across the country are not prepared for this sudden transition. No one is prepared to rapidly shift their entire workforce to work remotely on a rapid basis.
Here are five tips on making the shift from office to remote work and how a formal mentoring program can help you keep the show on the road.
One - Get the infrastructure right from the start.
In order to make your organization function remotely, you’ve got to make sure your employees have the requisite technology. Do all your employees have laptops? Do they have the software needed to do their work at home, conference calls, etc? You should direct managers to set up all employees with full access so no one feels left behind and unable to work.
Two - Stay in contact with your employees and use a formal mentoring program to keep company culture alive.
When your employees are working remotely, they can’t interact with each other the same way. All the “watercooler” conversation and coffee breaks are gone. So a good way to start is to have a group conversation about the new state of affairs.
Follow up by launching your team and setting up systematic times to communicate and establish how communication is going to occur. Is it best to use video, phone or a social media system? What works best for your team?
Once all the above squared away, you should virtually meet with your team once a week. Contact can not be downplayed. In the office supervisors, executives and superiors are always around to make sure things are going smoothly and workers are surrounded by their colleagues. This framework can provide safety and security.
Formal mentoring programs should be given extra emphasis in a remote working environment. Coffee breaks, having lunch outings and happy hour are gone. Working in isolation can sometimes boost productivity in the short-term, but in the long-run workers report losing touch with company goals. Working to increase mentor/mentee virtual meetings during this time can keep the human element of the company alive. Going long gaps without personal growth can result in stultified work and a mundane wooden approach can set in. While this might not kill productivity over night, organizations start to erode when its workforce loses its human element and employees begin to feel like cogs in a giant machine. Frequent mentor/mentee meetings prevents this from happening.
Three - Use mentoring to boost mental health, make sure people are staying focused and committed.
The social aspect of the work environment does more than most managers think to boost the morale and productivity or workers. Having friends and connections within the workplace helps workers on an emotional level which can translate into productivity.
If you were running a formal mentoring program prior to having to move your organization to remote work, it might be a good idea to encourage mentors to engage in constant instant messaging, phone calls or video conferences. Virtual connection isn’t the same as personal connection so there needs to be more of it to help an isolated mentee stay excited about his or her work.
It might seem like this approach would be distracting for your remote employee. How could they be productive if their mentor is bombarding them with communication? Well first off, I’m not advising that mentors reach out ever 20 min to talk. Secondly, when an employee is working remotely he often has far less distractions as he isn’t working in a noisy office full of friends and co-workers so these “interruptions” from a mentor aren’t layered on top of anything.
Mentors will need a nudge to do this and it doesn’t happen organically. Ultimately, mentors and mentees will have to work out what works best for them and how their relationship can help boost mental health and productivity but they won’t figure it out with no push from you.
Four - Use mentors to facilitate highly complex or emotionally charged conversations that can’t happen face to face.
One of the major benefits about having your employees in the office is you can see them. You can pull them into your office or you can approach them to go over things. Face to face, you can read emotional indicators and resolve conflicts on the spot. You can also tell when someone isn’t speaking up and you can prompt them to communicate.
Sometimes, in virtual environments, people don’t feel psychologically safe or able to communicate as honestly. Emotions get held in check and there is a lot that people repress in a virtual environment and no matter how good of a boss you may be, your employees aren’t always going to tell you what they are having trouble with in life or even when it comes to their work.
You can leverage your formal mentoring program to address this and keep your employees happy. A mentor is not a boss. He isn’t a superior. A mentor can be much safer to communicate issues or emotional concepts to. If you detect that there is something going on with your remote employee which can’t be easily sorted out, it might be a good idea to send a mentor in to talk him through it. Oftentimes, the problems resolve simply by having your employee having someone to talk to.
Five - Use the temporary remote working environment as a chance to learn.
Organizations, teams and companies can broaden their repertoires if they treat the transition to a remote workforce as an experiment. The technology to make it all work does exist and many companies have wanted to test virtual work as a way of expanding their reach or workforce.
This is not a permanent condition. Covid-19 will pass. Help your workforce to expand their capacity and gain new skills during this time.
Formal Mentoring programs can be leveraged and used in different ways during this time as well. They can be monitored more closely, meetings can be increased and progress can be sped up. Watch to see how your workforce responds to your mentor program during this time and take note. Any positive changes to your mentoring program during this time might need to become permanent when everyone comes back to work.
Mentor Resources can help any company to leverage technology to create tailored career development programs that are cost-effective. Our mentoring software - Wisdom Share is a cloud-based program that is simple and comes with guided workflows. Included are tools for administrators to attract, enroll, connect and guide participants. We also provide analytics to ensure you can monitor your employee development program and easily see ROI metrics. Reach out to us today for Free Demonstration of our software.