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Mentoring and emotional support

May 4, 2020

How mentoring can provide emotional support in trying times

Workplace mentoring programs bring a lot of unique benefits to the office but what happens when the office closes? As many organizations continue to practice social distancing to stave off COVID-19 infections, employees are encouraged to work remotely as much as possible. However, this can present some difficulties for individuals who are having to grapple with the challenges of remote working, distractions at home and concerns over their health and safety. The ability to stay in touch and connected with a mentor can be a boon for those adjusting to life as a remote employee. 

Common challenges of remote work

Working from home can come with its own list of challenges including:

  • Time management 
  • Technology challenges
  • Communication with team/managers
  • Overworking
  • Distractions
  • Unhealthy habits

Mentors that have a good understanding of the drawbacks that come with remote working will be in a good position to help mentees overcome them. This doesn’t mean a mentor needs to have personal experience working from home, but rather that they can offer some guidance on how to prevent these challenges from becoming problems. For example, encouraging healthy eating can help the remote mentee avoid developing unhealthy habits such as too much junk food. 

Concerns about social isolation

One of the biggest issues that come with remote workplaces is the possibility of social isolation. When you work at home you miss out on the collaborative nature of an office, such as gathering at the water cooler, going out for lunches with co-workers, etc. 

To overcome this hurdle, mentors should connect often with their mentees either through a video conference or phone call. This is particularly important during social distancing times as many individuals live on their own and so miss out on connecting with others in their household. 

Another one of the ways a mentor can help support a mentee in this situation is to encourage the mentee to take breaks from work. Getting outside, even while maintaining social distancing, is a good way to re-connect with others. A mentor can also help find online groups or activities that the mentee can take part in. These can include training webinars, virtual get-togethers or online discussion groups. Thanks to the internet and tools like video chats, many local interest groups have started to find ways to connect online. These activities can combat feelings of social isolation in remote work situations. 

Mentoring as a support

Many people believe that mentoring focuses on skill and career development. While that is a primary component of the relationship, there are other benefits as well. This includes how a mentor can be an emotional support to the mentee, particularly in difficult times.

There are some things to keep in mind when you are using mentoring as a form of emotional support:

  1. Boundaries - a mentorship is a unique relationship on its own. It is important to maintain boundaries of the connection so that neither participant feels uncomfortable. When working remotely, many employees can feel isolated, which can cause them to overstep the boundaries of mentorship. For example, it is not appropriate to discuss how annoying your spouse was that day when you are talking to your mentor. You should save that for a trusted friend. It is important that both the mentor and mentee understand the boundaries that are in place and respect them. 
  2. Protect privacy - the mentee should feel safe discussing fears and worries they have about their career, skillset or professional performance with their mentor. A mentee may also share some failures they have experienced in their career, which can lead them to feel vulnerable.  The mentor, in turn, should keep these private conversations private. This can build trust in the relationship, which is an important foundation for a strong connection. 
  3. Watch for emotions - a mentor is in a great position to recognize changes in a mentees behavior or emotional state. During these stressful times, mentors can act as great supports and help mentees feel connected to the outside world even while working from home. However, if there are signs of a mental health crisis looming, a mentor can intervene and get help for the mentee. 

Keeping the connection strong

Even though mentors and mentees will not be able to meet in person for the next little while, it is important to keep the connection strong. There are some great ways to continue mentoring with virtual tools. Mentoring software is one of the best ways that your organization can manage remote mentorships to ensure participants are getting what they need from the program. Together has the capability to guide you through the process from registration all the way to reporting. 

In addition, there is no reason you can’t start a mentoring relationship while working remotely. If you are looking for a mentor who could be a strong emotional support, keep your eye out for the following characteristics:

  • Self-awareness - a good mentor should be able to candidly discuss their successes, failures and lessons they have learned along the way. 
  • No ego - mentorships are not just about one person. Look for a mentor who readily heaps praise on those around himself rather than take all the credit. 
  • Self-control - find a mentor who is mature enough to control their emotions during stressful moments or tense conversations. You don’t want to be paired with someone who has emotional outbursts. 
  • Guidance - a good mentor won’t simply tell you what to do but will help guide you to the best solution. They are secure enough to let you decide what action to take. 

Whether you are just starting a mentorship or continuing to connect with a mentor or mentee that you have been with for some time, remember that you are a key person in that individual’s life. With the right approach, you can become a good emotional support for them during these tough times. 

To find out more about how Together mentoring software can help you stay connected, contact us for a free demo

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