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Forcing People Back Into the Office to Foster Mentoring Will Only Foster Resentment, Says Cringe Nicknamed Doctor

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Looks like we have another expert chiming in to offer their view on the whole “Work-from-home,” “Don’t-work-from-home, “Work-from-home-but-come-in-once-in-a-while” cluster!@#$ of a post-pandemic office strategy. This time it’s nickname guru Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, who says you might be pissing off your senior talent if you force them to come into the office to mentor the children.

Dr. Tspipursky—aka the “Office Whisperer,” aka the “Hybrid Expert”—wrote in a recent Forbes piece that leaders who believe forcing employees to return to the office will naturally lead to mentoring and development are huffing cope. If anything, the pandemic has shown that employees can get shit done outside the office, which means demanding them to come back is, well, you know, not very smart.

There is no denying that every professional, accountants included, began to rethink how they do their jobs when they were forced to work remotely. In the accounting industry, the enticement—and offerings—for remote work roll on. As of May 2023, there were more than 600 remote accounting jobs listed on the job board of talent solutions firm Robert Half.

And there more, according to the ConvergenceCoaching ATAWW Survey, the percentage of accounting firms allowing their folks to work remotely in 2022 on a regular or fluid basis nearly doubled to 80%. And get this: 43% say they are adding remote recruiting to their talent strategy.

So, if you don’t give accounting talent what they are looking for, as Dr. Nicknames says, you may be shit out of luck. A Thomas Reuters’ article says that the desire for remote or hybrid positions remains strong, with 41% of finance and accounting professionals either looking or planning to seek new employment in the first half of 2023. Among those professionals, 63% plan to go hybrid, with 47% interested in a fully remote position.

According to a PwC Remote Work Survey, pre-pandemic, only 29% of financial services firms had at least 60% of their workforce working from home at least once a week.

So, as Dr. Tspipursky, who really is CEO of future-of-work consultancy firm Disaster Avoidance Experts, says:

Instead of forcing everyone to return to the office and hoping for osmosis-driven mentoring, it’s imperative to create a hybrid mentoring program that encompasses in-person and virtual mentoring elements. Such a program has been successfully implemented for several of my clients, such as the companies mentioned earlier. The result was happier senior staff and more effective mentoring.

Why are senior staff more willing to come to the office to do mentoring rather than through a mandate? Well, my focus groups with senior staff showed that they overwhelmingly realized the value of in-person mentoring: not only did they get in-person mentoring themselves, but they also recognized that in-person connection is very important for building trust. It allows junior people to be vulnerable when they ask questions that reveal vulnerability.

And he has the goods to back up everything he says:

From my experience, a hybrid mentoring program requires several key activities:

  • Individual lunch sessions with senior professionals: One-on-one interactions with senior professionals are the most powerful form of mentoring, but given the scarcity of time for senior professionals, this should not be the only mentoring activity.
  • Virtual coffee roulette with senior professionals: A lower time burden for senior professionals, allowing for more accessible mentoring arrangements, even though less impactful than individual lunch sessions.
  • Group lunch sessions with senior professionals: A senior employee takes out a few junior employees for lunch, which facilitate knowledge sharing and relationship building in a time-efficient manner for senior professionals.
  • Group mentoring: A senior employee mentors a cohort of junior employees, fostering a collaborative learning environment and reducing time demands on senior staff.
  • In-person coworking sessions: One senior and several junior employees work together on their individual tasks in shared spaces in the office for a couple of hours. Junior team members can ask questions as they come up, while the senior staff person can check in on their work every half-hour or so. Doing so promotes teamwork and organic knowledge transfer, while decreasing the burden on senior employees.
  • Virtual coworking sessions: Similar to in-person coworking, but conducted via videoconference for increased flexibility.

Firms with a heavy RTO hand should take heed and reconsider their “collaboration” mandates. If they don’t, the Robert Half folks are going to love all the job placement contracts.