Addressing Loneliness & Burnout in Remote Teams

As more employees want to take advantage of flex and remote work options, organizations are accepting that this is how today’s talent wants to work. The 2018 Future Workforce Report by Upwork claims 63% of U.S. employers are offering some form of flex option.  However, in the midst of today’s Covid19 pandemic, many companies are left with very few options other than to equip their office employees with the tools necessary to work from home.  The challenge HR teams have today is that while many employees do enjoy working remotely, many other team members are forced into this situation as a result of Covid19 lockdown and feel isolated.  

A Dangerous & Growing Epidemic 

According to the 2018 State of Remote Work, loneliness is the biggest struggle to working remotely.  According to data compiled by Quartz Magazine and Harvard Business Review, loneliness and isolation are having a devastating effect on employers, costing businesses billions of dollars in capital every year. Although being alone is not the only cause of loneliness, it can be a significant contributor. It’s also a dangerous and growing epidemic that scientists are taking seriously.

At the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad from Brigham Young University presented the results of 148 studies with a total of 308,849 participants. The study laid out the connection between loneliness and premature mortality. “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Holt-Lunstad shared.

What can managers do? Prior to Covid19, one option was to establish an “in-the-office” day, when remote employees are encouraged to come in. According to a Gallup poll of 9,917 employed U.S. adults, remote workers that come in to work at least once per week are the happiest. These “mostly” remote workers report a slightly higher rate of engagement, but more importantly, they were more likely than full-remote or full-office workers to say they had a best friend at work, and that their job included opportunities to learn and grow.  

The challenge in the midst of Covid19 is that remote work is a perpetual reality until the pandemic subsides.  Even in the absence of a lockdown, there remains the possibility that some employees may feel intimidated to resume social contact in the short term, even with safety measures and social distancing in place.  

Remote Mentoring

Establishing remote employees with a mentorship program can help address the isolation challenges imposed by Covid19, and at any time thereafter. Mentorship provides employees with strong opportunities to focus forward on their growth. Growing research has shown that intentional mentorship programs have a positive impact in chipping away at the promotion or opportunity gaps.

Mentorship is shaping world-class organizations that retain talent, level pay, and hone their competitive edge through innovation. Mentoring has become an effective solution during the pandemic. It is breaking down organizational silos while also creating vital emotional stewardship.

When an organization decides to invest in a mentorship program, you’re providing a safe space for them to discuss their feelings, you’re connecting your talent to resources that build resiliency and you’re showing an investment in their development, which can offer peace of mind, personally and professionally.

Emotional Stewardship

To define this term, managing with emotional stewardship means prioritizing long-term, inclusive decisions that help the entire organization, not just individuals. Dr. Morela Hernandez at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia has written extensively on stewardship as a management philosophy when applied to organizational settings. She cites previous research that shows that “relationship-centered collaboration within the organization fosters pro-organizational and trustworthy behavior in managers.” Dr. Hernandez also defines stewardship as “placing the long-term best interests of a group ahead of personal goals that serve an individual’s self-interests.” We include the word emotional to mean when executives and managers take their team’s emotional health into decision-making, both as individuals and as a cohesive group. 

Mentorship fits squarely within the domain of emotional stewardship. Both frameworks see interaction through a lens of long-term relationship and steady development. When an organization decides to invest in a mentorship program, you’re providing a safe space for them to discuss their feelings, you’re connecting your talent to resources that build resiliency and you’re showing an investment in their development, which can offer peace of mind, personally and professionally. It’s important to note that some employees may not have an at-home support network that can help them navigate the new work-from-home reality. That emotional support is vital as organizations do their best to navigate the pandemic. 

Facilitating Mentorship with Mentorly: A Digital Solution

Managing Mentorship programs manually can amount to a horror story with many chapters. First, the right program must be determined. Then, an ecosystem of employees must be determined (ie – mentors and mentees). For many companies, it’s difficult to locate the appropriate matches – they often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars outsourcing expertise that’s not native to how the organization works and familiar with their unique best practices. In reality, the expertise they require already exists in-house, but can be difficult to locate in a large, distributed workforce. As such, it can be difficult to locate appropriate mentors that are best suited to the unique needs of each mentee. Once connections are established, participants must join the program, make connections, and decide on scheduling. If all of that isn’t hard enough to orchestrate, HR leaders who want to track KPI and outcomes from the program will require a certain method of assuring that meetings took place, and will be required to track meaningful data on the outcomes of the program. Most times, tasks like this require 2-3 full-time staff to manage this, and these people are using multiple separate tools, or outdated apps that younger staff (especially Generation Z) do not like adopting.

Mentorly was created to address these bottlenecks and designed to help employers build successful, productive cultures in any environment, including forced-remote situations brought on by Covid19.

The Mentorly platform integrates all aspects of a tailored employee mentorship program into a clean, easy-to-use dashboard. It matches the appropriate mentors and mentees across an organization, connects them via videoconference regardless of location, and generates meaningful data reports so outcomes and KPIs can be tracked. Many program managers enjoy the fact that finally, they can tell if a meeting actually took place, and are able to report meaningful outcomes and data to supporting executives.

Most importantly for many program participants, Mentorly is fun and easy to use. Creating an employee profile is a cinch, and the platform suggests great recommendations to help set up your program with smart matchmaking.  

Using Mentorly will allow you to easily facilitate the value of enabling a connected workforce in the midst of Covid19, safely and effectively.

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