Even before this unprecedented pandemic, our society was feeling more isolated than ever. A 2018 Cigna study found that nearly half of survey respondents felt alone or left out which some researchers claim “can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Not only are there health ramifications, but according to Harvard Business Review, lonelier workers cost employers upward of $3.5 billion, and that was prior to this new social distancing movement. So, how can we support the millions of people that are expected to stay at home without a clear timeline of being able to see friends, family and loved ones?
In a recent article in Psychology Today, Dr. Allison McWilliams, Assistant Vice President of Mentoring and Alumni Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, stated, “How we take care of one another, and connect with one another, in this time of social distancing, is critical to how we survive this moment in time, and to how we emerge from it.” She said that’s why this is a critical time for mentoring as mentoring is all about “deep, intentional, relationships of care,” and the world needs more deep connections than ever.
“How we take care of one another, and connect with one another, in this time of social distancing, is critical to how we survive this moment in time, and to how we emerge from it.”
In times of crisis, people yearn for the very basic fundamentals of survival, safety and belonging — often referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in psychology circles — with mentoring being one of the most basic forms of belonging by providing emotional support and knowledge transfer. However, research has shown that non-verbal communication can be as high 93 percent, which speaks to how critical it is to see the person you are talking to so that you can understand their facial expressions and non-verbal cues. The challenge, in this era of social distancing, is how to create an experience that mimics physical closeness as much as possible so that connections can be as rich and meaningful virtually as they would be in person.
How Chronus Supports Virtual Mentoring
That’s where virtual mentoring comes in. It is during this time of social distancing and isolation that the need to connect and communicate is greater than ever. However, as many organizations shift to remote work, ineffective use of videoconferencing can not only lead to operational challenges, but also employee disengagement and decreased levels of productivity. While many organizations are adjusting to virtual classrooms, trainings and workplaces, very few are creating an engaging channel for their audience to connect with one another virtually which is where Chronus is well-positioned to help.
It is during these times that we have to band together to rise to the challenge, and the Chronus team has been busy doing just that. Thanks to our forward-thinking customers that pushed us to continue innovating, we have already integrated with some of the most popular platforms for connecting people — Zoom and Slack — so that our users can connect with one another virtually and seamlessly. We are also enhancing our Skype and Live Chat functionality so that users can conduct video calls with one another and chat in real time, while accelerating our investment in allowing our users to hold video calls within the Chronus platform.
These investments are not only taking our innovation to the next level but also helping mitigate the social isolation that many are experiencing throughout the world. Furthermore, we will be launching a Virtual Mentoring Guide for those that are looking for new and novel ways to adapt to these uncertain and isolating times.
How to Mentor During a Crisis
With that in mind, it’s important to keep in mind that technology is just an avenue to deliver a deep connection. At the end of the day, “the two most important elements of effective mentoring relationships are consistency and continuity,” so it’s important to build in more structure, stay in regular contact and “maintain a rhythm that will help ensure that you’re communicating regularly enough to have an impact” when part of a virtual mentoring relationship.
In that vein, here are some tips for those that are committed to mentoring during these unprecedented times of social distancing and isolation:
- Ambience. Find a quiet place (with an appropriate backdrop for those video calls) that minimizes distractions so that you can focus on the conversation. However, when unavoidable distractions do occur (like the infamous BBC video), embrace them as your counterpart can most likely relate.
- Technology. We have all had those challenging calls where the video or voice drops in and out. Consider dialing into the video call with your phone as most videoconferencing tools have dial-in numbers (but don’t forget to mute your computer). If you don’t have a strong connection or have too many applications running on your device, consider moving closer to your internet source or using a different device such as your smartphone.
- Be Present. It’s hard enough not to check your buzzing phone when you are meeting in person, let alone when you are speaking with someone virtually. Consider turning off your phone notifications, listening more intently than usual and looking at the other person (rather than your own video) for subtle nonverbal cues that may be harder to dissect virtually than in person. Video calls may also require being more patient as there may be a lag, so don’t be afraid to ask for more clarification and overcommunicate to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Find Moments for Fun Last but not least, don’t forget to have some fun. Making these calls structured but flexible and goofing around may be exactly what you both need to escape the infinite news feed and feeling of isolation.
While some organizations will face harder times than others in the coming months, there is one thing that binds us all together and that is the basic need to connect with one another. For those that are asking themselves what they can do to help during these tough times, virtual mentoring is one of the best things we could be doing to help break the feeling of social isolation and keep our mental health. In fact, we are encouraged and excited to see several organizations across different sectors step up and lean more heavily on our platform to help their audience connect with one another in deep and meaningful mentoring connections. One of our clients summarized this new world extremely well by highlighting that “the shift to all remote work has been an interesting one, but I think this is part of the value of Chronus; it’s another innovative way to connect people.”
The shift to all remote work has been an interesting one, but I think this is part of the value of Chronus; it’s another innovative way to connect people.
At the end of the day, we have to keep in mind that “mentoring is always about the people, about the learning, about the connection.” Whether you embrace virtual mentoring or are looking to just offer a friend some advice, mentoring is one of our basic fundamental human needs, and it is times like these where mentoring is needed more than ever to help maintain our mental health under extreme circumstances. If you are asking yourself what you can do to help, consider virtual mentoring as one of the key avenues to connect people and cut through this era of social distancing and isolation.
As always, if there is anything the Chronus team can do to help either through our platform or expertise, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are ready, able and willing to step up in this time of need!