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How to Help Younger Employees Thrive in a Remote Work Environment

Recent data suggests that younger employees don’t enjoy remote work as much as their more senior counterparts–and that remote work might even be bad for ambitious young professionals. Surveys by Fortune and Survey Monkey, Microsoft, and PwC showed that junior employees felt less productive when working remotely, missed the social interaction found at the office, and struggled more during COVID-19 work-from-home mandates. But the fact remains: remote work is here to stay. Fortunately, there’s a lot that leaders can do to help younger employees thrive while working remotely.

Check in frequently

In the office, informal drop-ins from managers and colleagues give younger employees the chance to get advice, provide feedback, or ask for help. In a remote setting, these less experienced professionals have to raise their hands to ask for input. Too many end up going without the constructive feedback they need to do their best work.

To avoid this, take a more proactive approach. In addition to formal status updates, use casual check-ins to keep the door open to communication.  These informal conversions can be essential to identifying where junior team members are struggling and uncovering their hidden talents.

Help younger employees prioritize

Remote work comes with a deluge of digital distractions. For younger employees especially, this can make it difficult to identify the most important and urgent tasks. As a consequence, productivity takes a big hit–and so does morale. Less experienced employees are often eager to prove themselves, so this lack of focus can be damaging on multiple levels across the business.

Solid project management is key to enabling young professionals to thrive in a remote work environment. Leaders should practice prioritization skills with their greener employees, explaining how decisions are made and when to say “no” to potential distractions. 

Create opportunities for creativity

Prior notions conceived of creativity as a sudden, isolated stroke of genius. In reality, we know that innovation is the result of exchanging ideas, empathy, and a deep understanding of the problems to be solved. Therefore, it’s no surprise that some remote teams see creativity diminish when working separately from their own homes.

For younger employees especially, it’s important to gain exposure to new ideas. This means going beyond the small group of teammates they work with daily to get insights from other departments, customers, partners, and peers outside of your organization.

In a remote setting, these encounters don’t happen by chance. You’ll have to create them by holding cross-department meetings, planning internal networking events, and encouraging younger employees to attend industry conferences and training events. 

Be vulnerable

Frequently, your best employees are also the ones to agonize over asking for help and struggle to come forward with concerns. On top of this, many younger employees suffer from imposter syndrome and live in a constant state of self-doubt that makes it difficult for them to open up to bosses and co-workers.

To overcome these challenges, leaders can practice being vulnerable with these less experienced professionals. By sharing their failures and speaking honestly about weaknesses, managers invite up-and-coming employees to speak frankly about their own challenges. Once things are out in the open, leaders can work in partnership with young professionals to get them the training and development they need to succeed in their roles and careers.

Make time to socialize

Remote work shouldn’t mean that younger employees miss out on opportunities to socialize and connect with colleagues. Encourage water-cooler conversations, hold virtual happy hours, and host events that diverse groups of employees will enjoy. Start team meetings with an ice breaker, share personal anecdotes, and ask about your employees’ lives outside of work.

Personal connections boost morale, build trust, and strengthen loyalty. That means socialization doesn’t just make people happier; it’s good for business, too.

Going remote can work for younger employees

When done right, remote work can be an opportunity for younger employees to learn vital skills and perform at a high level–all while enjoying the ideal work-life balance. However, leaders need to give younger team members the tools and support they need while working virtually.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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