Coaching Young Talent Through Remote Work Challenges

We all know that hiring young talent can bring a lot of positives to any organization. Younger workers are digital natives, they tend to have a great deal of energy, and their perspectives frequently provide a thoughtful counterpoint to “the way we’ve always done things.”

However, the cliche of younger workers being perfectly OK with staying glued to a screen all day long is unhelpful. This stereotype can unconsciously lull HR professionals into neglecting to address the downsides of too much time spent online. And this problem has become increasingly prominent in our new all-remote or hybrid workforce setting. After all, how are we supposed to interact with remote workers if they’re not connected to a screen of some sort?

The long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health will doubtless fill research papers for decades to come. We know for sure that the pandemic was particularly difficult to handle for college students who had only begun to move out into the world. Many were sent off-campus, often back to their childhood homes. Countless international students were suddenly sent back to their country of origin. The net effect was a deep sense of disorientation.

Pandemic restrictions are lifting worldwide. HR professionals need to remain sensitive to the more pronounced feelings of fear, isolation, and confusion that young talent are bringing to the workforce. When hiring recent grads for remote positions, the burden rests solidly with employers to ensure these younger workers do not get lost in the shuffle.

The Ups and Downs

The benefits of remote work scarcely need to be enumerated. During the pandemic, many of us found it beneficial to stay at home. The environment was relaxing, both physically and mentally. Stress levels went down. Knocking out projects while wearing sweats served as a calming influence.

However, remote work has some downsides. The single biggest loss, of course, is that of community and real-life relationships.

Offices are and perhaps always will be where professional types meet, greet, and bond. Good things happen when colleagues bump into each other in the hallways and breakroom. Things that don’t happen on a video conference call.

WFH status can leave young talent with a nagging “last to know” sensation.

This sense of isolation can be especially pronounced for workers attached to companies where most colleagues are working in-office. As a result, remote workers are often left off essential communications. Unfortunately, though unintentional, this is an all-too-common reality. Every remote employee has at least one story of logging into a video conference only to learn it was canceled, but nobody bothered to tell them.

Long-Term Effects of Remote Work on Young Talent

HR professionals must recognize that those who choose to work remotely may be at a significant disadvantage. For example, a remote worker might push themself to the breaking point to meet an important deadline, but would anyone notice? This is a serious downside that could carry with it implications for future raises, promotions, and perceived value.

The other obvious issue for remote young talent is the lack of easy access to more seasoned employees. Remote work lessen’s any ability to lean over to ask a quick question. When the remote worker isn’t well connected, simple questions may go unasked. As a result, coworkers can categorize employees as “a face on my laptop.” 

Turning the Tables

Like every other challenge, the key to young talent overcoming the downsides of remote work is to adopt simple counter-strategies and stick with them. Here are two to consider.

1. Push your remote workers and yourself outside comfort zones

Not everyone is an extrovert. Research from The Myers-Briggs Company reveals that nearly six out of every ten people prefer introversion to extroversion. Despite this, introverts owe it to themselves to adopt an “I’m getting out of my comfort zone” attitude when working remotely. Accept that everyone will need to push through initial reluctance. 

Katelyn Watson is the chief marketing officer at Nurx, a remote-first company that provides consumers with healthcare options delivered virtually. To ensure that no one gets “lost in the mix” at Nurx, Watson pays attention to everyone’s contributions during meetings and gatherings.

“As a leader of a global, 100% remote workforce, I want everyone to feel comfortable joining into discussions,” Watson explains. “ I empower team members to speak their thoughts when collaborating and always invite them for feedback, even when there is an awkward silence. No one should feel they have to be quiet or can’t veer from popular opinion. I stress that the more ideas we gather, the stronger our marketing will be. At Nurx, all marketing team members get an equal platform regardless of title or tenure.”

2. Embrace mentorship on both sides of the videoconference screen

Mentorship is a great way for HR professionals and remote workers to sharpen their relationship skills. Having one trustworthy person to talk to when a question arises can smooth out the bumps we invariably experience whenever we try something new. In many office settings, remote or hybrid work is new, so both parties should expect to not manage it well at first.

Do mentorships make that much of an impact? Serenity Gibbons, unit lead for the NAACP in Northern California, says they do. “A good mentor can help you achieve more in less time,” she notes. “ Plus, your mentor can serve as your cheerleader and maybe even advocate. For example, when a job is about to open, your mentor may recommend you or smooth the way for a different interoffice transition.”

Set up regular mentorship meetings. Have an agenda for each meeting to stay on track. Your agenda might include talking through some concerns you’re having. Or reviewing how you’ve applied your mentor’s suggestions since your last conversation. In time, you’ll have forged a solid bond with your mentor, even if you’ve never met face to face.