Learning from home: how can remote colleagues develop new skills?

24th March 2020

As we write this on the 22nd March 2020, the world is adapting to a new reality. Coronavirus has forced everyone to adapt in a hurry – with very little time to plan how business and life will continue under a regime of social distancing and self-isolation.

While many businesses are facing existential threats and are simply struggling to survive, there are many organisations that need to prepare for a period of increased home working. As we write, it is difficult to predict whether this period of partial quarantine will continue for weeks or months.

Added to this uncertainty is the challenge of dealing with the stress and anxiety that most of us are feeling. Work may bring a welcome break from the alarming headlines, but many people will find it difficult to focus on work when they’re worrying about the health of their family and friends.

Maintaining connections with colleagues

As we all get to grips with these temporary ways of working, our attention will inevitably turn to sustainability: how can we work remotely for the long-term?

The first few weeks of remote working are likely to focus on the basics. Things like…

How do we:

  • communicate as a dispersed team
  • delegate tasks
  • share and organise information
  • manage meetings
  • schedule work
  • remain cohesive?

Once these basics are mastered – or at least worked out – then attention may turn to the long-term needs of colleagues, such as coaching, support, learning and development.

Remote learning and development

Professional learning and development may, at first glance, appear to be a luxury. But the reality is that most larger organisations have an obligation to ensure that their employees have the knowledge and skills to do their job competently and safely.

Colleagues who suddenly find themselves at home, and struggling to cope with the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, may need more professional support and coaching from peers and managers.

And there will also be a host of mandatory compliance training that must be maintained.

While many businesses will be figuring out how to survive the next few weeks, there will be many leaders also developing plans for emerging from this period of retraction. Remaining viable as an organisation may well depend on having a capable, qualified workforce ready to return to the workplace.

Virtual classrooms

The good news is that modern technology enables many different forms of learning remotely. Several of our clients have recently asked us to set up virtual classrooms to help them keep in touch with colleagues during periods of isolation.

A virtual classroom is a web conferencing tool that gives teachers screen-sharing capabilities, as well as options to share documents and videos. Tutors can write on a whiteboard, appear on webcam, or talk over slides. Students can either join the live session, and interact with the tutor by voice or text, or the session can be recorded and watched back later as a video.

This kind of platform provides a direct link between colleagues and ensures that teams can stay in touch and continue learning from each other. It may be good for morale as well as learning.

 

E-learning

If your organisation has already embraced e-learning, then you are likely to be in a stronger position to support colleagues and keep up with mandatory training.

The key changes required – if any – may be connected to access and the wider learning ecosystem.

For example, your digital learning assets may be locked down to anyone not on your premises, or using one of your laptops. You may need to change settings to accommodate a more flexible approach.

And from a broader learning perspective, it may be that your e-learning solutions do not provide a complete, end-to-end experience. Perhaps your colleagues usually rely on learning from peers, classroom sessions or workshops to complement their learning.

As an interim solution, you may need to supplement some of these real-world experiences with a blend of additional e-learning, static content or live sessions conducted in a virtual classroom.

Here to help

At Marshalls, we’ve had a slight advantage in that our team has been semi-dispersed for years now. And even our office-based colleagues regularly work from home. While we’ve all been somewhat disrupted by the epidemic, we’re still working and are busy helping our clients keep up with their learning and development goals.

If you have any questions or concerns about your learning and development, we’re happy to talk.

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