How to Mentor in a Remote Workplace

Remote work is here to stay. And with this shift comes the need for managers and executives to master virtual mentoring. Many people mistakenly assume that physical closeness is essential in developmental relationships. But like the work itself, mentoring is defined less by the medium in which it is done than by the results achieved. Commitment, trust, relationship quality, and mentoring skills are the true ingredients for developmental growth, all of which can be applied to virtual mentoring.

To master virtual mentoring and build effective developmental relationships, managers and leaders need to sharpen five skills. First, build trust by making the relationship a safe space for both parties and fulfilling any promises you make. Second, clarify the rules of engagement, including deciding the frequency of communication and preferred media. Third, be intentional as you build a relationship by asking questions and discovering common values. Fourth, balance authenticity with boundaries. Finally, if possible, work together.

The nine-to-five office job isn’t coming back. Remote work is now ubiquitous around the world, and a Gallup poll Last fall showed that working from home—including various hybrid arrangements—is an enduring trend. As of September 2021, 45% of US employees were working partially or fully remotely, and 91% of them planned to continue some level of remote work post-pandemic; In fact, 58% would consider quitting their current job if access to remote arrangements were lost. In combination with proof Demonstrating that remote workers are just as productive or even more productive than their in-office counterparts makes it clear that remote work is here to stay.

With this shift comes the need for managers and executives to master virtual mentoring. Four Decades research leaves no doubt that employees who have access to positive mentoring relationships will reap numerous personal and professional benefits. And when mentoring is a recognizable element of corporate culture, it improves retention and nurturing of talented new hires. But how can managers change their approach to initiating and nurturing these relationships when potential mentees are not physically present?

Many people mistakenly assume that physical closeness is essential in developmental relationships. But like the work itself, mentoring is defined less by the medium in which it is done than by the results achieved. Commitment, trust, relationship quality, and mentoring skills are the true ingredients for developmental growth, all of which can be applied to virtual mentoring.


Virtual mentoring is widespread with clear benefits for the new environment of remote and hybrid work. youngest research on virtual development relationships points out that this form of mentoring can be more egalitarian; visual status cues signaling organizational status and physical stature are minimized in video-based conversations by reducing all parties to one voice and one screen of equal size. Furthermore, in a post #MeToo environment, where cross-gender mentoring feel tense, the ability to interact virtually can reduce anxiety about meeting in person. Virtual mentoring also removes the barriers of shared space and geography, as online options allow for more flexibility in mentor/mentee schedules and locations. The ability to record and transcribe mentoring sessions can allow mentoring partners to relate to and reflect on a past conversation and allows others to learn vicariously when shared. Finally wide availability of translation apps and subtitling On most virtual platforms, a mentor’s impact is now expanding to a global population of potential mentees and more inclusive of people with disabilities.

As optimistic as we are about virtual mentoring, we recognize that there are some potential roadblocks. Virtual mentoring may require greater intention than in-person mentoring, where there are fewer opportunities for momentary mentors in random hallway interactions or informal drop-by chats. It may also take more effort to build trust and rapport in the relationship as the full range of non-verbal cues and vocal nuances may be missing. As with many online collaborations, virtual mentoring can suffer from email overload and screen fatigue, which can lead to the relationship becoming more task-oriented and purposeful, rather than focusing on relational support.

There is little access to formal education and training in the art and science of successful virtual mentoring. (Only about 30% of companies offered virtual mentoring training prior to the pandemic, but those efforts have focused more on software and company policies than tactical interpersonal and social skills for virtual relationship success.) Fortunately, there are skills leaders can learn , in order to be successful. First, we propose sharpening these five virtual mentoring strategies.

Build up trust.

determination Trust is fundamental for any developmental relationship and may require even greater intentionality in virtual media. These skills include taking the initiative, speaking up, demonstrating commitment and reliability in meetings, and showing genuine caring, concern, and compassion for a mentee’s work and life situation. Listen actively, be curious, and avoid making assumptions about a mentee’s aspirations or concerns. Talk about how you can make the virtual relationship a safe space for both parties (this includes an agreement on confidentiality regarding what will and will not be recorded or shared), and keep any promises you make . Your mentee can’t stop by your office to remind you of a promised performance. So, earn his trust by sticking to it without being asked.

Clarify the rules of engagement.

In contrast to the more informal nature of face-to-face meetings, virtual mentoring requires more attention in setting expectations related to communication logistics. In addition to establishing communication frequency, discuss preferred communication media, including synchronous (e.g., video-based platforms that work for both parties, internal mentoring systems, and phone calls) and asynchronous (e.g., email, messaging, and social media). platforms like LinkedIn) options. Which ones feel comfortable for both parties and which communication time limits should be respected? Additionally, if you or your mentee is working remotely, be flexible about meeting times and be prepared for the demands of caregiving, homeschooling, personal commitments, and other realities of working from home.

Be intentional when building the relationship.

research about building a relationship and overcoming prejudices and assumptions in intercultural mentorships indicates that work is being done to establish itself deep resemblance is important. For example, consider using relationship building tools in the early phase of virtual mentoring to better understand your mentee’s values, personality and professional calling. to ask to ask who delve deeper and deeper into the experiences, feelings and life or career dreams of both the mentee and the mentor, so that you can feel a certain degree of closeness and similarity. Consciously share and reflect on your similarities, career aspirations, and relationship goals to build a strong working alliance. Thoughtful effort in developing the relationship and discovering common values ​​is the best way to mitigate implicit biases. This includes homophilia in online relationships – the preference for interacting with demographically similar people – and the standardization on stereotypes related to race or gender.

Balance authenticity with boundaries.

In a way, virtual mentoring can lend itself to greater task-oriented formality in terms of mentor-mentee pairings, scheduling, and topics for discussion. However, with a lot of virtual mentoring taking place in our homes, there will be inevitable glimpses into the personal lives of both parties, including unforeseen intrusions from partners, children and pets.

On the one hand, great mentors should embrace these moments — including honest disclosures from mentees about the challenges of work-life integration — as opportunities to empathize, deepen understanding and connection, and normalize those experiences for a mentee by addressing their own challenges share in this area. Alternatively, mentors should remember to respect some relationship boundaries. This may include avoiding disclosures that might make mentees uncomfortable, being mindful of how one is dressed, being respectful of family members (yours and your mentees’) and making sure you are comfortable before disclosing personal information pass on.

As the relative power in mentorship, mentors must strike a balance between maintaining reality and being overly familiar, or worse – creepy.

If possible, work together.

In-office mentoring traditionally offers many opportunities for collaboration on projects such as research, product development or client presentations that benefit the mentee, the mentor and the organization. Such collaboration can become a platform for teaching, coaching and networking with your mentee. Also, don’t overlook the potential for collaboration in virtual relationships.

For example, one of Ellen’s healthcare client organizations encouraged virtual mentor pairs to present a project after they had officially worked together for a year. One couple created a conference presentation on breast cancer research, while another set up a one-day mobile mammography screening clinic. Conscious collaboration fosters transferrable skills such as project management, presentation, writing, research, and giving and receiving feedback.

Like new management skills for remote work, there are new skills for virtual mentoring. With targeted preparation and skills development, virtual mentoring can be very effective. Regardless of the medium for your next virtual mentoring relationship, we hope that by developing these skills you will be well prepared for an effective virtual relationship.

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