Being present in the office has traditionally had huge benefits for a young person’s professional development, social life and wellbeing. Now that hybrid and remote working are more commonplace, employers need to purposely create moments that ensure young workers are able to thrive, writes Simon Blake
The challenges of Covid-19 have meant most organisations and employees have adapted what they do, as well as how and where they do it. For young people taking their first steps into the working world this has been an extraordinary induction.
We know there are benefits to working flexibly and as we move through the next stage of the pandemic we can ‘design in’ what flexibility means for individuals, teams and organisations.
But it is important to remember what it feels like to be young and entering the world of work. And while young workers are incredibly diverse, I know that as a young ‘professional’, who was living in a new city, what I needed and wanted from work was different than it is 25 years on.
I benefitted enormously by watching and learning from others around me. I wanted to make new friends to explore and play with. I needed more feedback and reassurance. I wanted the chance to understand how offices and organisations worked, and how my role fitted into the wider context. I wanted to be inspired and look up to older and more senior people. In short, I benefitted from proximity.
While we know that being in the office is not the only answer to a good induction, learning on the job or making friendships and social connections, it has historically been an important part of young workers’ experience. The past two years have disrupted this.
Supporting young workers’ wellbeing
The pandemic has hit the mental health of young people the hardest and 67% of people aged 13-25 believe it will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health. As employers we have an important role in making work rewarding, purposeful and fun so it can support their wellbeing, and does not exacerbate loneliness, isolation, overwhelm or contribute to poor mental health.
Building a support system
With many young people now joining organisations remotely or through some form of hybrid working, HR leaders and managers must have adequate support systems in place for them.
Luckily the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of workplace mental health and wellbeing strategies. Done well we can support employees at all stages of their life and build cultures where everyone can bring their whole self to work.
These young people have the potential to be the future leaders of your organisation. By helping them to develop in a workplace where people can speak freely about mental health, we encourage them to lead with empathy as they progress into leadership positions.
Induction is critical
Make sure your induction process is fit for purpose now. Inductions that take place face to face in the workplace will be very different to one that is done remotely or via a hybrid model. Get everyone involved and encourage them to put themselves in the shoes of the new joiner and consider what role they can play in welcoming and supporting young professionals.
Keep communication open
You won’t have the ‘over the desk’ moments. For people to learn and develop in their role, they need to know who to speak to and when. At a basic level, this means understanding the different ways to communicate. What is the culture around phone calls, video calls, emails and instant messages? How does the team like to communicate?
At a wider level, HR leaders and managers could hold Q&A or spotlight sessions for all colleagues to hear more about specific areas of work, as well as chat through general queries or concerns they have.
Offering wellbeing support
The increase in hybrid, remote and flexible working options post pandemic has been beneficial for many employees, but working remotely for all or most of the time can present challenges for young staff. These include not bonding with their team, missing out on mentoring and advice from others, or feeling disconnected from the wider organisation.
Many young new starters will be eager to meet new people across the company and establish friendships with colleagues. Hybrid working patterns can make this more challenging and social events are less regular.”
Explaining what support is available and what an employee assistance programme, for example, really offers, is important for those with little experience in the workplace.
Encouraging human connection
Many young new starters will be eager to meet new people across the company and establish friendships with colleagues. Hybrid working patterns can make this more challenging and social events are less regular.
Just last week, nearly two thirds of our staff at MHFA England were in the office. It was glorious! I loved the buzz. It reaffirmed my belief that whilst we can and must work more flexibly, we must never lose sight of the importance of social connection for effectiveness and wellbeing.
Given a decline in the organic opportunities to socialise, let’s purposely create these moments. Help young people feel part of the business and give them more friendly faces to turn to. It can also help existing team members stay connected and boost morale.
From training and mentoring, to socialising and meeting new people, the hybrid working world has created challenges and opportunities for us to connect with our teams in different ways. Now isn’t the time to be putting in place long term formalised hybrid working plans; it is a time to experiment and find ways that get the work done, support social connections and thus generate energy and support wellbeing. This will help all new joiners to thrive at your organisation, wherever they are working.
You can find a host of healthy remote working tips in MHFA England’s supporting your mental health while working from home resource.