The Coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a crash-course in remote working for many of us. In some cases, offices have closed with less than 24 hours warning, leaving a lot of people – including apprentices – scrambling to set up a functioning office system from their sofa.
It’s a strange and uncertain time, not least for the youngest members of your team. Your apprentices may be experiencing a lot of anxiety and could have their confidence knocked by disruption at work. So how can you, as a workplace mentor, support your apprentice while working from home?
As specialists in online learning, Baltic Apprenticeships’ dedicated Learning Mentors are sharing their top tips for mentoring your apprentice remotely:
1. Establish your communication systems
Working from home can add additional barriers to communication. Your mentee may have been comfortable asking questions across the office, but when they can’t see what you’re doing, your apprentice might be unsure about when and how they can contact you.
Whether you go for video calls, slack, email, a team WhatsApp, or a healthy mixture, take the time to check in with your apprentice about how best to communicate. Together, establish your ideal communication systems, frequency, and what to do if problems or questions come up. As you settle into home working routines, revisit these systems and ask your apprentice for their feedback regularly.
After setting up a contact system, don’t assume that everything’s fine if your apprentice has gone quiet. Sending a light message or meme can provide a useful prompt for your mentee to share how they’re doing.
2. Gently add structure and routine
Whether you line-manage your apprentice or act as a more informal source of support, your mentee will likely appreciate your input on time management. Remote working takes some adjustment, and even the most disciplined of us can find time behaving in strange ways as work and home blur together. Add structure without micromanaging by scheduling regular check-in calls, sharing current and upcoming tasks, and discussing what you have planned for your own day.
3. Use your existing mentoring style as a base and adapt it for digital
Your working environment may have changed, but your mentoring style doesn’t have to. Take the techniques that work for you and your mentee, and adapt them to fit this online world we find ourselves living in. If you normally have a sit-down mentoring meeting with a formal agenda, this is easily replicated via video chat. If you work more informally, why not try meeting up in a Minecraft server and chatting over lunch?
4. What about job shadowing? Find ways to keep this up while social distancing
Let’s face it, Coronavirus has ripped up our to-do lists and given us a whole other set of priorities. For those of us still working, we’re probably working on projects that are new and time sensitive.
While this can be stressful, it’s also a once-in-career learning opportunity (we hope). If it’s not possible for your apprentice to take part directly, find ways to involve them in the process.
Whether you’re busy putting together emergency communications schedules as a digital marketer, or you’re an IT technician setting up an entire workforce for remote working on a shoestring, your apprentice has a unique opportunity to experience some distinctive job shadowing remotely.
Consider setting up screen sharing and talk them through the solution you’re working on (Google Hangouts or Zoom are good tools for this). If this isn’t possible, you could delegate simple tasks to complete from home and explain how it fits into achieving the wider goal.
5. Give them a head-start on training
Realistically, there are limits to “business as usual” during Coronavirus. If, for any reason, your apprentice has gaps in their workload or mentoring schedule, you can fill these with self-directed online training.
At Baltic, our Learning Mentors are always happy to advise on additional training resources. Some useful sources for additional online training include Google’s Digital Garage, HubSpot Academy, Codecademy, Udemy, and FutureLearn.
6. Keep one eye on wellbeing – both for your mentee and yourself
This is an unprecedented time, and we don’t yet know how it will affect our mental health. Your apprentice may take everything in their stride, or they may need some extra support. Baltic Apprenticeships is taking our commitment to our apprentices very seriously and is offering additional support from our team of Learning Mentors during this time.
Baltic’s apprentices also have access to the Apprentice Helpline, operated by Mindful Employer. You may wish to encourage your mentee to use these services and keep conversation open.