How Remote Working Affects Traditional Mentoring
The move toward remote working has impacted all working relationships, including traditional mentoring tremendously. The Covid-19 pandemic forever changed the working world. Overnight, business and work culture changed from commuting into the office to rolling out of bed and logging on in the living room. Humorous adaptations like the blazer on top and pajama bottoms aside, a whole new set of challenges emerged as working from home became the new normal. Whether you love it or hate it, teleworking is here to stay. According to a study, About three in 10 remote workers say that losing the option of working from home, should their employer remove it, would make them extremely likely to look for employment with another organization. It seems that companies are listening to their employees and most white collar jobs are offering remote or hybrid work environments. But people haven’t changed much. Mentoring relationships still greatly pave the way to accelerated personal and professional development.
Remote working has made it difficult to collaborate in person, and this also affects traditional mentoring relationships in that people are less able to grab a quick coffee or schedule a lunch with a mentor that also works in the same building or nearby. The geographic proximity needed for traditional mentoring has made it challenging to find a life coach or mentor at work. Even if two people work at the same company, these days they aren’t coming into the same office and may live too far apart to make regular in person meetings feasible. Many people wrongly believe that mentors must be found in the workplace and that meetings need to happen face to face for the best connection. True, face to face meetings are great and can foster more organic conversation flow and feel more personal. However, there is a lot to gain from a more modern form of mentoring relationship, e-mentoring or virtual mentoring.
E-mentoring is a great way to solve the problem of geographic proximity and also has many other benefits that may make it more ideal than traditional mentoring. For example, individuals in lower to middle income countries might have access to less mentoring relationships than those in richer countries. Traditional mentoring might not provide enough mentors to these individuals. With e-mentors, people in these countries have the ability to be mentored by people from richer countries with more established industries and better resources. Moreover, according to the Harvard Business Review, single mentors are less career enhancing than robust developmental networks or mentoring constellations. Virtual mentoring opens up the idea of having multiple mentors, which opens up an individual’s exposure to different perspectives and ideas. Mentoring is also usually hierarchical, which means younger mentees are paired up with more senior mentors. Younger, less experienced workers might be more shy or feel hesitant in face to face interactions with powerful mentors in higher positions. They might feel less intimidated in a virtual environment. E-mentoring also saves time and it’s pretty convenient to be able to log on to a meeting from the comfort of your own home. This is an advantage for both mentors and mentees. Research also shows that the ability to instantly log on helps mentors and mentees better communicate on an as needed basis and speak to each other when ideas are most fresh in their head.
As the world enters a more virtual work environment, the transition to e-mentoring becomes more crucial. While face to face interactions hold many benefits, virtual mentoring relationships can lead to new networks, access to mentors outside of one’s geographic area, and perhaps, a more comfortable setting for inexperienced workers to interact with more powerful senior individuals. The world is changing, and so mentoring relationships and structures must also modernize and adjust with the times.