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Amidst the spread of COVID-19, most Australians are now working from home; with some adopting the lifestyle the very first time.

Such widespread changes have undoubtedly highlighted the many, pre-existing benefits of teleworking – these including a 13% increase in worker productivity, the opportunity for businesses to save billions each year, and the greater autonomy experienced by employees.

With social isolation in full-force, however, this “new norm” has left many with an abundance of free, extra time – and limited ways of using it. Most companies are maintaining caution in returning to work onsite, with major events and large gatherings still yet to return; so, where does one place all the spare time and energy?

Stagnating your skills and professional development needn’t be an option. Below, we explore five important ways of looking after yourself as a remote worker – by keeping productive and boosting your skills – during these unpredictable times.

Take up an online course

With over 1,000 online training providers in Australia, workers have a generous selection of digital courses and programs to pursue. With teleworking placing more time on our hands, it’s the perfect opportunity to expand your knowledge and skillset; whether in your current role or industry, or in a new field of interest.

Pandemic or none, upskilling should be a priority among Australia’s current workforce. According a recent Hays survey of 951 employers, 77% stated that they were more likely to shortlist a qualified candidate who upgraded their skills consistently. In contrast, only 14% upskill weekly, 18% monthly, and 20% on a quarterly basis.

Use this time to get ahead of the competition by undertaking an online course or certification. You’ll enhance your value as a current employee, while the getting the eyes of other potential businesses on the job market. Additionally, virtual courses have been proven to have an advantage over traditional learning – with studies reporting greater retention rates (up between 25%-60%), higher engagement, and a faster learning process.

Attend online events or conferences

With the current halt on physical, face-to-face events, businesses have taken their affairs to the digital realm – gaining video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams an impressive level of traction.

Prolific, worldwide gatherings such as the Women Tech Global Conference, Adobe Summit, and Starbucks’ shareholder meeting have all been moved online, with attendees able to access the same sessions on demand through streamed video and recorded talks.

Though a relatively new approach for many, companies have started to notice both the economic and social benefits of virtualised events, with reports highlighting the significant reduction in travel costs, pollution, and accessibility issues.

If you’re longing to make those new connections – while at the same time, maintaining social distance – virtual conferences may be your ideal go-to. Such events allow for anytime access (if you accidentally miss out on a session, chances are you can stream a recorded version, instead) and allow you to reach a more global, international audience than most physical events are able to achieve.

Some also argue that while virtual events lack the face-to-face opportunities that only traditional conferences can offer – networking online allows for more targeted (and thus, more effective) connections.

Keep a consistent, disciplined schedule

The autonomy that working from home provides can easily lend itself to mismanaged time. With procrastination reportedly affecting 88% of the workforce, keeping to a consistent and sustainable routine is key.

Like any ordinary day at the office – it’s important to wake up at the same time each morning, treat yourself to a healthy breakfast, shower, and dress to prepare yourself for the day. While tempting to lounge around your pyjamas, you may be trading productivity for the comfort; with experts pointing to research that business clothing does, indeed, help one adopt the “working mindset” required to stay efficient at home.

To optimise both your working hours and the “spare time” you have to invest in skills-building or hobbies, be sure to strictly block out hours in the day for work, training, and of course – you time.

Though professional tasks and development are important, so is the need to set breaks and time for personal care. Remote workers can easily fall into the trap of overworking (one study found that 48% of such workers are prone to this), resulting in higher levels of stress and thus – burnout, fatigue, and unproductivity.

Don’t forget to socialise

Along with hosting virtual events, video-conferencing platforms are effective for nurturing your personal and work relationships, too.

With isolation being a prominent downside to working-from-home (according to ABS statistics, 1 in 12 remote workers report feeling lonely), companies have taken the initiative to host regular virtual meetings or lunches – with some even moving their clubs and after-work drinks online.

Maintaining interaction and activity with your peers, even through a computer screen, can do wonders for your work engagement and morale. Not only will you be fostering your work friendships and business connections (relationships that remain a vital part of your career –working onsite or otherwise), alleviating loneliness also helps in maintaining your motivation and optimum employee performance. Both your social life and your professional productivity will thank you.

However, experts warn against solely relying on instant messaging or e-mail for your “social fix” – when you can, opt for a phone or even video call to simulate the feeling of close, face-to-face interaction.

Protect your tech, too

Finally, it’s also important to care for your digital presence.

The rise of teleworking has dispersed employees from a centralised, secure workplace operating under the same cybersecurity guidelines and protocols. Organisations are now pressed to ensure that each employee does their bit in protecting devices with access to company data.

Cyber-criminals have taken significant advantage of our current workforce disruption, targeting those with weak home security or capitalizing on the widespread paranoia. On top of common password hacks and methods of network breaching, users have experienced a growing trend in phishing e-mails and texts that attract recipients with “new” information or advice on the virus.

To protect both your personal and company information, it’s imperative to adhere to best security practices; such as learning to identify such scams, using complex passwords, keeping your network activity encrypted, and ensuring your home Wi-Fi has proper, reliable safeguards in place.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre also suggests implementing multi-factor authentication on your devices – in which you enable multiple layers of authorisation to further secure data or system access, updating your software and operating systems as needed, and installing a virtual private network (VPN).

Use this “spare time” to learn a new skill!

While the recent “work-from-home revolution” has been a stark change in lifestyle for many, researchers are predicting the setup to be the “new norm” among able businesses.

Whether or not the arrangement is here to stay, the flexibility provided by our current teleworking state has given workers plenty of extra time to pursue side opportunities for career development and training.

If you’re looking to upgrade your skillset while working from home, DDLS (Australia’s largest provider of corporate IT and process training) offers a wide range courses in cybersecurity, professional development, business management, and technology – with many providing certified training under leading vendors such as Microsoft, Google Cloud, and Cisco.

Through our DDLS Anywhere platform, students can also complete their choice of courses through 100% online training.

Enhance your skills in data security, networking, business analysis and everything in-between – and enquire with us on a course today.

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