Learning during lockdown: Why employees should upskill when WFH

Coronavirus-induced remote work is a great time to brush up on various proficiencies, and failing to do so could be detrimental to both the employee and company.

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Online learning is taking center stage as more professionals shift to remote work due to the novel coronavirus. Upskilling is not only beneficial for the employee, but also the organization, and quarantine is a prime time to do so, said Jennifer Curry, senior vice president of product and technology at INAP, an IT infrastructure solutions provider. 

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Popular eLearning platforms such as The Linux Foundation and Docebo both saw marked increases in enrollments since the start of the coronavirus, according to representatives from both companies. 

Remote work has opened the door to eLearning for a couple of reasons: A way to relieve stress and the affordance of more free time, Curry said. 

"You've got two phenomena. A lot of people are seeing that they do have the time. Even if it's just the commuting time, people have this free time in their workday that they didn't have previously," Curry said. 

"But on the flip side, [some] people are busier than ever, and they don't have any extra time and they're actually struggling with the increase in their workload," Curry said. "The problem with that is you could face that sort of burnout really fast, because you just don't have something to distract yourself." 

Online learning could provide that healthy distraction, giving employees another task or passion project to focus on that doesn't come with the associated stress of work, Curry noted. 

Benefits of enterprise online learning 

Whether you are inundated with work or not, eLearning is a great way to break up the workday. 

"Take those mental breaks," Curry said. "The prioritizing of learning is something that we probably, pandemic or not, need to get better about. Because of our nature, especially people based in the US, we tend to grind, grind, grind, grind, grind and not take that time." 

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

The other benefit for individuals is the competitive edge education brings. With where the economy is heading, many companies have been forced to furlough or lay off employees. Having more skills makes an employee more valuable, which is key in the current market, Curry said. 

Online education is not only beneficial for the employee, but also for the company, Curry noted.  

"When you take yourself out of doing your tasks day in and day out, you allow yourself to reset your brain, to get those creative juices flowing again," Curry said. "You don't look at your job like, 'This is boring. I should be looking for a new job.' You're creating your own job satisfaction by widening what you understand about your business."

Upskilling is ultimately profitable for the company because they then have employees that have wider knowledge bases. By getting those mental breaks, employees can explore topics they've always wanted to, or work on projects they've been meaning to get to, which ultimately makes them happier and better performers, Curry said. 

Not pursuing education can actually be detrimental to an organization, resulting in employees succumbing to burnout and looking for new work, she said. Companies should be encouraging eLearning during this time.

What courses to take 

The right course for an employee varies by employee, Curry said. 

"If you are going into some sort of project management role, there's always the PMP, which is extremely intensive," Curry said. "If you are a VMware shop, then you have to start to understand, as the individual, what it is that you want. What do you want to be able to do? And then let's look at those paths that you want to go down.

"There's some general certifications out there. Security certifications are never a bad idea, no matter what you do in IT," Curry said. "Ultimately, the employee has to be somewhat interested in [the topic]. It has to fit somewhere. [The company] can't just be like, 'Hey, I need this Microsoft certification, will you go take this test?' That's not very fulfilling."

The good thing is that online learning providers are recognizing the public's demand. In turn, many companies are providing free trials or discounted courses for interested users, Curry said. 

For more, check out The top free online tech classes to advance your IT skills on TechRepublic.

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