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Emma Sue Prince



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Coronavirus: how remote working can help upskill teams

Working from home offers opportunities for learning – let’s take them.

Working from home has often seemed an appealing concept for organisations and has been welcomed by employees to support flexible working practices and work/life balance. That’s fine when we are talking about starting later, finishing earlier, or working one day a week from home. It is a completely different matter when remote working becomes the default mode, which is what’s happening now for many companies due to the ongoing situation with Coronavirus.

Realistically, it may just not be possible for employees to replicate all of their work online. This provides opportunities to instead view this as a time to upskill your employees.

The number of people working from home increased dramatically this month. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, recommended that all of its employees in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East work from home until 10 April. Amazon has told all employees globally who are able to work from home to do so until the end of March. Other technology companies, including Twitter, Microsoft, and Apple, have asked employees to work from home, as have dozens of other small companies. All of this could continue for weeks, if not months.

Whilst organisations, large and small, grapple with platforms, technology, new equipment and the day-to-day practicalities of remote working, they also have to consider a host of other areas, as well as opportunities, some of which we’ll explore here.

Employee wellbeing

Whilst working from home, many employees are going to feel isolated. If you are used to working in an office environment, your working life is going to feel very different when you’re perched at the end of your kitchen table day after day. Combine that with anxiety about the coronavirus and you have a substantial wellbeing issue that is going to be tricky to manage remotely.

So, what can organisations do to help their employees? You may need to think of ways your team can check in with each other, issue wellbeing and self-care guidelines for managing anxiety around the coronavirus. You might also provide employees with methods and best practice on taking breaks whilst working and eating nutritious foods, providing access to online mindfulness sessions or other types of online modules that support wellbeing.

These are things that may have, at one point, sounded a bit ‘new-age’ but they suddenly make more sense when there is a possible lockdown situation at hand.


This goes hand-in-hand with wellbeing because that essential camaraderie that happens spontaneously over a cup of coffee or at the water cooler is suddenly absent. This means that organisations need to find ways to replicate that, beyond obligatory meetings/calls to discuss work.

This might be a chance for a great reset in terms of how we work, which bodes well for the future.

This can be addressed with things like a remote lunchtime ‘mindfulness session’ together, or getting employees to buddy up and check in with each other once or twice a day. Some organisations have also adopted a WhatsApp group only for posting photos and inspirational quotes to each other. The reason I emphasise mindfulness is because this practice boosts our capacity to be present and to regulate breathing and really helps when our brains are jumping around trying to work out what is going to happen next and triggering stress.


Beyond lost creativity and companionship, the gravest threat to many companies from remote work is that it breaks the social bonds that are necessary to productive teamwork. This is why finding ways for employees to connect in other ways is going to be so vital if you also want them to remain productive as a team. Ask them for their ideas on how they can maintain these social bonds, and then invest and support this as much as you can.


Realistically, it may just not be possible for employees to replicate all of their work online. This provides opportunities to instead view this as a time to upskill your employees. Now is the time to invest in some great online learning for them – whether that is learning a new language or a new skill, or asking them what they would like to learn.

Doing this will mean that your employees will come back with fresh new skills, some of which could perhaps be critical to the new business landscape your organisation finds itself in at that point. They will also have to learn how to work remotely and this may become part of that new landscape.


Let’s not lose sight of the fact that every cloud can have a silver lining, even if it is hard to see right now. Millions of people will get the chance to experience days without long commutes, or the harsh inflexibility of not being able to stay close to home when a family member is sick. This might be a chance for a great reset in terms of how we work, which bodes well for the future.

Interested in this topic? Read Six emotional skill sets for remote workforces to thrive.

Author Profile Picture
Emma Sue Prince


Read more from Emma Sue Prince

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