Sarah Parks, Marketing and Communication Director at CNet Training, discusses the types of learning approaches organisations can create and offer their employees, as COVID-19 has forced us to rethink our priorities in the workplace.
Prior to COVID-19, the popularity of attending events, meetings and educational programs via remote attendance, hot-desking and flexible working was already increasing, with more and more major organisations choosing co-working spaces or encouraging flexible and remote working. Yet, the global pandemic has propelled many organisations across the globe to transform what their workplace will look like in the future. Predictions suggest that most organisations will never go back to 100% of staff being in the workplace five days a week. This poses the real question of what to do with the traditional workspace environment.
There is now a real opportunity for organisations to re-envision and reposition their workspaces and head offices. It is not uncommon for organisations to create well-being and breakout areas, exercise spaces and reading rooms within their workspaces for all their employees to take advantage of during their workday. So, why not also create dedicated learning zones?
These could consist of one, or a series of, private formal and informal learning zones that allow for a variety of learning, professional development activities, and work towards the upskilling of teams. Learning zones could be created specifically to each organisation’s needs, with one or more smart areas for single or multiple occupancy which can allow for individuals to undertake self-paced distance learning as well as small group collaborations where colleagues can work together and share ideas. Teams attending live instructor-led education programs via remote attendance will have a learning zone to utilise and engage with other learners from the same organisation as they learn/work together, collaborate and share ideas, as well as learning and collaborating with others attending remotely from other organisations. Also, with many remote learning programs being available in different time zones across the globe, there are opportunities to use the space and change working patterns to meet other like-minded professionals globally or unite global teams from the same organisations, creating real collaborative learning opportunities.
Mission-critical employees including data centre professionals are key workers and therefore still have to travel to work during the pandemic, although organisations have been working to minimise risk by keeping non-essential staff at home, creating staff bubble rotas and looking to utilise a remote system where possible. As the digital infrastructure industry looks at how it is working and what is and isn’t possible remotely, it is the perfect time for the digital infrastructure industry to create a learning space for their mission-critical teams to give them a dedicated space to devote to learning during, before and after their shifts and on nightshifts, where possible. With the availability of remote attendance learning in global time zones, individuals could choose to learn on a time zone that is most convenient to them and their role. The dedicated space would also provide a quiet area for individuals enrolled on distance learning programs, the learning is self-paced and the individuals can choose to use the learning zone when they have a break, lunch or whenever is best for them to take some time to focus on their learning.
Types of learning
Here are a few suggestions of the types of learning options that organisations could create to offer their employees, if they had a dedicated learning zone:
On-site learning – A specific learning environment within an organisation that allows organisations to bring professional instructor-led education into the workplace. The benefits of having an instructor-led learning experience in your workplace is that it provides total convenience and exclusivity for all staff. Teams are able to openly and confidentially discuss and progress ideas about their own company processes with the instructor and among each other. Organisations can choose, if they want, the instructor to travel into the workplace (where travel restrictions allow) or, if they prefer the instructor could deliver the program via live instructor-led remote attendance, allowing the instructor to remote into the learning zone to see and teach all the learners. This would be beneficial for organisations that would prefer a program to be delivered just for them and who has multiple offices in different locations, instead of bringing everyone together in one room physically, they could all attend a program/series or programs remotely from their workplace’s dedicated learning zones so can all benefit from the entire learning experience with each other.
Distance learning – Having a quiet and secure learning zone at their workplace reassures employees as it can allow them to fit the distance learning around their work and home life commitments. With distance learning, all the learning resources are accessed online, allowing for complete self-paced learning and therefore provides flexibility for learners to pick where they left off and learn at times that are most convenient to them. Having a private and dedicated space also allows employees that are working on the same distance learning program to have a space for collaboration and can therefore work through the learning together. Distance learners also often have access to a dedicated online tutor, a highly experienced data centre professional who can offer one-to-one support and guidance as needed. Here, the learning zone allows complete focus, a private space away for the individual’s desk and away from other colleagues, especially if they need to focus or are contacting the online tutor.
Remote attendance learning with added collaboration – For employees who are attending remote programs, the learning zone allows for collaboration and collective learning with other industry professionals who are also attending remotely.
Benefits of dedicated learning zones
Here are some of the benefits of having a dedicated learning zone environment in your workspace:
Collaboration and collective learning – A dedicated learning zone environment is a quiet area that is distraction-free for individuals to focus and learn and complete any self-paced learning and reading. Having this dedicated learning zone means individuals can get away from their usual day-to-day workspaces and can make the most of the concentration-time. It also allows for collaboration and collective learning among individuals and colleagues and creates a more creative space where individuals can share ideas and work together through their training and professional development. Teams could all go through a program together, which will further enrich the learning experience.
Cost-efficient, no further travel/expenses required – With learners remaining in the workplace, there are no additional costs incurred, no travel, accommodation and subsistence costs.
Provides learning environments for all – Learning zones are an ideal option for those who prefer not to/aren’t able to, learn from home. This is an essential option for those who may not have the required set up at home, or the quiet/private space needed to attend an intense five-day remote attendance class. It also provides learners with another option if they prefer to get out of the house and separate their work from their personal lives. It gives an alternative option to all employees to choose which learning environment they believe they are going to benefit from the most. It also provides a quiet space away from interruption and the general noises and distractions that can come from working in the workspace.
More sustainable – Remote attendance learning provides organisations with a more sustainable and environmentally friendly learning option. Suppose the entire class is attending the program remotely from the dedicated learning zone. In that case, it saves on the employee’s travel as well as the instructor’s travel, which for some international-based programs could involve a series of long-distance flights (think of the reduced carbon footprint of not taking these flights). It also provides an option for those who are hesitant/unable to travel due to COVID-19.
Gives back to your teams – It’s important to note that mission critical workers, who have been absolutely vital in keeping things going during the pandemic, have still been working really hard during this time. Having a specific learning environment can help employees feel more valued and looked after. This can contribute to a much more positive working environment and can create happier teams with increased loyalty to their organisation. This, in turn, makes the organisation a more desirable place to work and helps when recruiting to bring in top talent.
Learning zones can help people feel empowered. They can learn new skills and challenge themselves in a safe environment without fear of distraction from others in the workplace. They are perfect for those who don’t have private learning/working spaces at home.
It’s up to organisations how they move forward with the ‘new normal’ surrounding workplaces – the more open they are to change, the new ways of working will undoubtedly help to spark creative ideas on future working/learning options and in turn, enhance the work and learning experience for all and contribute to happier team members.Click below to share this article