The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has seen rapid and significant change sweep across the world of work, with organisations activating business continuity plans and transitioning their employees to remote working.
For a large proportion of us, then, our day-to-day working lives now look very different to just a few weeks ago. Added to this is the requirement to help your department or organisation adapt to continue to serve its customers. You may, for example, have been pulled onto a taskforce or you might even be supporting other teams with responsibilities that are, strictly speaking, outside your normal remit. All of this is to be expected. After all, it’s at times like these that we all need to join together – remotely – to support our organisation and each other in whatever way we can.
At the same time, many people have found themselves with more time on their hands and are wondering how they can spend this time productively.
Your own learning and development doesn’t need to take a pause
So, whether you have been asked to assist with work outside your usual remit or find yourself with more time to fill, upskilling makes sense as a strategy that will help you boost your sense of purpose, wellbeing and self-esteem, while learning valuable new skills to add to your CV.
It’s also well worth remembering that once this crisis is over, it’ll be those people who have taken steps to boost their skills who will come out the other side in the best position.
10 ways to boost your skills remotely
Naturally, upskilling when working remotely or self-isolating needs to be conducted digitally. Thankfully, there are many tools and platforms out there for you to choose from.
Here’s our advice on how to upskill remotely:
1. Access any training and development resources that your employer offers.
Your employer may have always given you the opportunity to take on certain forms of training, whether internally or through an external provider, but you may not have had the time to make the most of it. Employees who regularly undertake training and development are frequently higher-performing, more productive, more innovative and more satisfied. They are also likely to stay with an organisation for longer. Training therefore really is a ‘win-win’ for both employer and employee, with benefits lasting long beyond self-isolation. So, schedule some time in your calendar to access any resources that your employer has made available to you online.
2. Read the top business books.
Reading, or listening to business books allows you to upskill from any location. The global research and advisory firm Gartner, for instance, provided this rundown of books that could enable you to become a better leader and more effective in business in 2020. Harvard Business Review also recently opened up free access to its resources for working through coronavirus, which will help you both work and lead through this time.
3. Listen to podcasts.
Not only can you find podcasts on any topic, but they’re also almost always free. What’s more, they’re great to have on in the background while you’re at home. PlayerFM enables you to pick from podcasts on such subjects as software engineering, investing and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, Feedspot has come up with a list of career podcasts for 2020, of relevance to sectors including – but not limited to – nursing, aviation and IT.
4. Attend virtual events, conferences and webinars.
Switching previously physical, ‘real world’ events to the virtual sphere isn’t just a short-term means by which organisations and their people can continue to engage with each other and their customers. After all, even before the coronavirus outbreak, corporate videoconferencing platforms like Zoom were gaining traction. Others are now joining the fray, such as Hopin, which supports as many as 100,000 simultaneous participants. So, attending virtual events, conferences and webinars could help you to adjust to a way of learning, networking and collaborating that is likely to become a ‘new normal’ well beyond COVID-19.
5. Keep in touch with your mentor virtually.
As Hays UK Director Karen Young has previously explained, not only should every ambitious person have a career mentor, but you should also be carefully nurturing your relationship with yours. That advice applies equally well at this time when you probably won’t be seeing them in person. Whether you’re keeping in touch with your mentor via video conferencing software or instead perhaps phone or email, the broad principles are the same. Show respect and gratitude to your mentor and discuss how their previous advice helped you, as well as what the two of you could focus on next to keep your development moving forward.
6. Take an online course on a topic relevant to you.
Udemy, for example, offers some 100,000 online courses covering such areas as business, design, marketing, IT, photography and personal development, hosted by top instructors from around the world. LinkedIn Learning provides a similar service, with a one-month free trial. Or why not master Google Analytics with Google’s Analytics Academy? Intelligent data collection and analysis are likely to become more and more important for business success in the years ahead, so now could be a great time to find out more about the search engine’s measurement tools. You might also be tempted to brush up on your writing with The Open University’s free learning arm, OpenLearn. With other great sources of online courses including the likes of Codecademy for coding and Duolingo for learning a language, you’ve got no shortage of options for honing your skills at little or no expense while self-isolating.
7. Try brain training apps.
The fact is that we are all human, and therefore probably all prone to stress and anxiety at this time. Even if you aren’t necessarily reading all of the latest news updates or worrying about worst case scenarios, you might be feeling under heightened pressure at work to do more in less time. Everyone is unique, and is reacting to the situation differently. So, a brain training app that is specifically designed to help you control harmful emotions, while improving brain sharpness and memory, such as ReliefLink, Happify or Lumosity, could be worth trying right now.
8. Learn to use and master new technology.
In much the same way as creativity is required even in non-creative jobs, even those in ‘non-tech’ roles still need some level of tech proficiency in today’s highly digital, interconnected world. It’s likely that this situation has already forced you to get to grips with remote working tools and technology that you may have never or rarely used before. So, why not use your time now to learn about the video conferencing, collaboration and other platforms that you might not have been very familiar with, pre-coronavirus? With tech moving at a helter-skelter pace, it can be so easy to end up being left behind, so it’s worth acquiring skills now that will be indispensable for months and years to come.
9. Learn how to work from home productively.
There can be both good and bad things about working from home. You won’t be distracted by colleagues dropping by your desk to try to engage you in conversation. But on the other hand, they might pop up with demands on Skype, and with no one literally watching over your shoulder, you could easily find yourself wasting time browsing social media. Thankfully, some simple steps can greatly help you to work more productively from home. Those include starting work early, structuring your day as if you are in the office, having a dedicated workspace that is separate from where you go to relax, and generally acting as if you are in the office. Use this time to learn what works for you when it comes to working from home as productively as possible.
10. Get into the routine of upskilling when you’re in self-isolation.
It’s important to establish a sense of routine when you’re self-isolating. So, you should try to incorporate your own learning and development as part of that routine. Try to put aside 30 minutes a day to help you self-improve in some way.
While this is a challenging time for all of us, we can use our time wisely and productively to upskill. This, in turn, will place you in the best possible position to advance your career in a post-COVID-19 world.