Prior to Covid-19, the popularity of attending events, meetings, and educational programs via remote attendance was already increasing, with more and more major organizations choosing co-working spaces or encouraging flexible and remote working. Yet, the pandemic has propelled many organizations across the globe to transform what their workplaces will look like in the future. Predictions suggest that most organizations 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 organizations to re-envision and reposition their workspaces and head offices. It is not uncommon for organizations to create well-being and breakout areas, exercise spaces, and reading rooms within their workspaces for their employees to take advantage of during the 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 and professional development activities that work toward the upskilling of teams. Learning zones could be created specifically to each organization’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 utilize and engage with other learners from the same organization as they learn/work together, collaborate, and share ideas, as well as learning and collaborating with others attending remotely from other organizations. Also, with many remote learning programs being available in different time zones, 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 organizations, creating real collaborative learning opportunities.
Mission critical employees, including data center professionals, are key workers and, therefore, still have to travel to work during the pandemic, although organizations have been working to minimize risk by keeping nonessential staff at home, creating staff bubble rotas, and looking to utilize 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 utilize before, during, and after their shifts. With the availability of remote attendance learning, 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 in distance learning programs — the learning is self-paced, and the individuals can choose to use the learning zone when they have the time.
Types of Learning
Here are a few suggestions of the types of learning options that organizations could offer to their employees if they had a dedicated learning zone.
Private Classes — With private classes, organizations have a specific learning environment set up to invite 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 ideas about their own company processes with the Instructor and amongst each other. Organizations can choose to have the instructor travel to the workplace (where travel restrictions allow), or the instructor can deliver the program via live remote attendance. Remote classes are beneficial for organizations that have offices in multiple locations, as it provides access for all employees and cuts down on travel costs and time.
Distance Learning — Having a quiet and secure learning zone in the workplace allows employees to fit distance learning opportunities into their schedules. With distance learning, all resources are accessed online. Course completion is self-pace, which provides flexibility for learners to pick up 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 collaborate. Distance learners also often have access to a dedicated online tutor, a highly experienced data center professional who can offer one-on-one support and guidance as needed. Learning zones offer a private space away from the individual’s desk and other colleagues, so they can focus entirely on the training
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 will vary based on each particular organization and set up, but here are some of the most common advantages.
Collaboration and collective learning — A dedicated learning zone environment is a quiet area that is distraction-free for individuals to focus, learn, and complete any self-paced assignments. Having this dedicated learning zone means individuals can get away from their usual day-to-day workspaces to concentrate. It also allows for collaboration and collective learning amongst 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 savings — With on-site workspaces, there are no additional costs incurred for travel expenses.
Provides learning environments for all — Learning zones are an ideal option for those who prefer not to or 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 organizations 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 employees 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). It also provides an option for those who are hesitant/unable to travel due to COVID-19 or other health-related concerns.
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 hard during these stressful times. Having a specific learning environment can help employees feel more valued. This can contribute to a much more positive working environment and can create happier teams with increased loyalty to their organization. This, in turn, makes the organization a more desirable place to work and helps when recruiting top talent.
Learning zones can help people feel empowered to learn new skills and challenge themselves in a safe environment without fear of distraction from others in the workplace..
Organizations can decide how they want to move forward with the “new normal,” but the more open they are to change, the more likely these new ways of working will spark creative ideas, enhance the work and learning experience for all, and contribute to happier team members.