When the COVID-19 threat is finally over (or significantly diminishes), what will normal work and life look like? It’s unrealistic to think that overnight we’ll suddenly revert to the way things were in the middle of 2019. An Associated Press article that appeared recently in the Chicago Tribune (Nations charting the path to normalcy) quoted several governments and health officials speaking about orchestrating an end to virus-related restrictions. Everyone agreed that when the virus threat eases, we’ll see a very gradual easing of restrictions to prevent a second wave of contagion. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to linger for quite some time. 

In an excellent article in Forbes (The Impact Of The Coronavirus On HR And The New Normal Of Work), Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, says, “The Covid-19 virus is becoming the accelerator for one of the greatest workplace transformations of our lifetime. How do we work, exercise, shop, learn, communicate, and of course, where we work, will be changed forever!” She cites a Gartner finding that 88% of Americans who are currently working are working from home. That number is bound to go down as the pandemic eases, but it may not go down drastically, especially since in many areas it appears that schools will be out for the rest of the school year. 

In the article, Meister makes several interesting predictions with training implications.

• CEOs Will Be Bold in Protecting and Investing in Their People 

Among other things, investing in your people means investing in the whole person. This opens training requirements not only in traditional skills training but also training in physical and mental health and well-being.

• There Will Be a Surge in Remote Working after the Coronavirus 

The ongoing situation not only requires a change in corporate learning strategy but in many cases, it requires training people on “how to work from home.” Several of the clients I work with have many locations and virtual teams composed of individuals all over the world. For them, the transition to the current environment has been relatively seamless. For others however, it’s a completely new experience with a new set of challenges. I’ve worked at home for the better part of the last decade, and I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned in a future blog post. If you’re a corporate learning leader though and working from home is a new experience for parts of your organization, it is essential to teach your personnel how to be productive while working at home

• Learning Will Be Radically Transformed 

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak began, industry experts estimated the e-Learning market to triple by 2025, reaching $325 billion. That estimate is bound to increase as corporations look to restructure their training

• Organizations will Double Down on Re-Skilling Workers 

Meister predicts the effects of the pandemic will accelerate business toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the need for equipping many existing workers for new jobs in the next-generation workplace. This too presents training needs for teaching workers new skills. 
In short, many of the impacts of the current pandemic are likely to be long-lasting if not permanent. The adaptations we make now will not only get us through the current crisis but equip us for surviving the next one. I recommend Meister’s article to everyone, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Mastech Digital if you need help to formulate your training strategy in this “new normal.” 

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the workplace. I recently read a finding from Gartner that 88% of Americans who are currently working are working from home. For many, this is uncharted territory. I have worked from home for most of the last decade. Here are a few things, I have learned from experience.

Set aside a dedicated workspace. My kids are grown, and I can use a spare bedroom as an office, but not everyone has that luxury. I certainly did not when I started working at home. Sometimes my workspace was the dining room table. Sometimes it was a table in the corner of our family room. Whether it is a TV tray in your living room or a nightstand in your bedroom, it is important to have a consistent place from which to do business. This will help you keep your business stuff organized, and it will help you draw a line between business activities and home activities. 

Develop a schedule and try to keep regular hours. Make sure your virtual colleagues know your work schedule, so they know when they can get a hold of you. Barring any scheduled meetings, I typically start work around 8 a.m., break for lunch around noon, and try to wrap up for the day between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. depending on what I am in the middle of. During the pandemic, some have the added challenge of having to juggle work with their kids and homeschooling. That is a challenge I have not had to face, but my kids have. In those situations, developing a schedule is doubly important. Setting aside specific times for your work activities, and your kids’ activities will help you and them. 

Put everything into your calendar and keep up to date. This will remind you when it is time for work and when it is time for your kid’s online meeting with his or her teacher. If you work in an organization where others can see your calendar for scheduling meetings, then your colleagues will know when you are available to meet, and when you are not. 
(Try to) draw lines between personal and work life. This can be hard sometimes. When you worked in an office, you could walk out the door at the end of the day and be in a world outside work. When you work at home, you may feel like you are living in your workplace instead of working in your home. In the beginning, I struggled not to feel like I was always at work. Having a dedicated workplace and a regular schedule will help with this. 

Avoid distractions. Some like to work with music or the TV in the background. I like quiet. Do whatever works best for you. At present, you may have kids at home who are noisy at times, but the more you can eliminate distractions, the more productive you will be.

Stay connected. Today, most people have access to high-speed Internet, and the more speed, the better. Part of what I do involves creating e-Learning modules, and I often need to move huge files around. You may find yourself in online meetings where you are not only streaming audio but video as well. There is no substitute for bandwidth. Sign up for the best you can get (or afford). 

Reach out and talk to someone. Until you work at home, you may not realize how often you had personal interactions with others in your office. Do not hesitate to talk to your virtual colleagues. Usually a short conversation or group meeting can be a lot more productive than composing a lengthy email that then requires a lengthy response, and it helps your avoided feeling like you’re working in solitary confinement. 

After the stay-at-home requirements ease, many of us are going to find ourselves working a home more than we did before the pandemic. Everyone is different, and you will have to develop your work-at-home routine, but these are a few of the things that helped me in my transition from in-office to remote work.

In my previous blog post, I described how rushing to convert instructor-led training to self-paced eLearning may not be the most effective approach for your learners or your organization. But what else are you going to do given the constraints of sheltering in place and social distancing?  

Probably the quickest solution is to have the instructor present the class to a remote audience. There are a variety of remote presentation tools in the marketplace, and chances are you already use one anyway. However running a virtual class presents some different challenges from managing a classroom. Nobody wants to sit at their computer watching PowerPoint slides all day. Left to their own devices, people tend to multi-task or wander off to make coffee at times other than designated breaks. So converting an on-site class to a virtual class still requires some design effort, but not as much as converting the class to self-paced eLearning.

Also, not every subject works in eLearning. I remember one project where a client had several weeks of instructor-led training they wanted converted to eLearning. We told them it wasn’t going to work because the content was full of very difficult concepts that required a lot of hands-on practice to master. They wanted it converted anyway, and 18 months later they contracted with us again to redesign the curriculum using a blended approach. Blended learning is a very good approach for converting classroom instruction to remote delivery relatively quickly. Take straight lecture-type content and convert that to self-paced, and bring learners together virtually for group discussions, activities, and Q&A with the instructor.

Your specific approach for moving to remote delivery requires considering a number of factors including

  • What is the current content? 
  • Who are the current learners? 
  • Who are the current instructors? 
  • What are your goals and objectives? 
  • What are the time constraints?
  • What are the logistical and technological constraints?  

 Mastech Digital’s Digital Learning group can help you answer those questions and develop a unique solution to accomplish your goals.