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Part II – What TrainSmart’s Team of Learning And Development Professionals Learned in 2020

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Learning and Development professionals are not essential workers. When organizations, businesses, and state governments issued stay-at-home orders last year, the initial interruption to work routines did not seem dramatically disruptive – and then it did.

In the early days of the pandemic, when training event after training event was canceled, many viewed these cancellations as typical postponements. The optimists thought, “We’ll make it up in the fall.”

Some thought it was a good time to do early spring cleaning – still thinking that it would be very busy when everyone returned to work in a few weeks.

Then, the reality hit- people weren’t going back to their offices, and for those of us who wanted to work, we needed, like so many other professionals, to figure out how to do it remotely- a topic discussed in Part One of Lessons Learned. (need to hyperlink)

While we were adjusting to the new culture of virtual platforms, many of us were finding, despite years of working from home offices, those offices, like everything else in 2020,  were not the same as they used to be.

Instead of sending family members off to their worksites and schools each day, those same family members were ensconced in their workspace- sometimes invading our work bubbles. Day in and day out, they were competing for bandwidth, zoom meetings, and office space.

Senior Technical Instructional Designer, Marni Centor has worked from home for over a decade. She is also the mother of a middle schooler who has been in school full-time, hybrid, and 100% remote. Like thousands of others, Marni had to adjust her workday to accommodate her new normal.

  1. Set your working hours to correspond with when your kids are in school or doing schoolwork at home (assuming they are old enough to work independently).
  2. Block out family time on your calendar so no one schedules meetings when you need to be picking up, dropping off, helping with homework, attending sporting events (in the before times), making & eating dinner, etc.
  3. Alert family members who are home with you about your meeting schedule for the day, so they will know not to disturb you at those times. If you have a door, you can shut when participating in meetings, do that. Also, silence your phone (including your landline, if you still have one) before starting a meeting.
  4. Timeshift: Do independent work after small children are in bed for the night or while older children are engaged in their own evening activities (watching TV, chatting or playing online with friends, etc.)
  5. If you have a partner who is also working from home, tag-team your time with the kids so one parent can work while the other is keeping the kids entertained or feeding them, or driving them places. This can either be a set schedule (for example, one always does pickups and the other always does drop-offs) or more of a fluid arrangement if you both have flexible schedules.
  6. As much as you can, save weekends for family time, chores and self-care. Everyone needs some time off to recharge and relax.

For Cynthia Manika, Senior Instructional Designer & developer, the stay-at-home orders didn’t impact her daily routine. She has been working at home for decades and follows a strict routine to keep her on task and on time.

Cynthia says she gets dressed every day just as if she went to the client’s corporate office (that includes a shower, brush her teeth, style her hair). Her one exception – footwear. Cynthia says bunny slippers or camp socks are acceptable.

Her other advice includes keeping a rigorous routine. Cynthia recommends:

  • Arrive at your desk at least 10 mins early to get your personal stuff out of the way.
  • Turn your phone ringer off.
  • Your work area is your work bubble – not to be moved, messed with, or intruded upon during set working hours.
  • Get up and walk to the kitchen to refill your water glass hourly if possible
  • Set an alarm to finish the day – keep to a daily schedule, if possible.
  • Turn your phone ringer back on.

For Cynthia, this routine is sacrosanct. “My friends and family are already in the habit of reaching me before 730 or after 430 since I was never able to chat during a working day/training session – but you may need to train yours to not contact you while you are in your working bubble.”

If there is one suggestion Diane Wendt, Senior Business Development & Strategy Consultant has for her learning and development colleagues, it’s this. “Push yourself to be an expert in remote learning- especially in the expertise you offer. Read and Stretch.  She adds, “Recognize that 75% of what worked pre-2020, won’t work anymore.”

Diana says she also learned the importance of “getting out of her way.” She makes sure to get outside and drive around- safely distancing herself to keep from becoming a cave dweller with a cave dweller mentality.  She also worked hard to find ways to increase having fun – whether it was doing a remote get-together with family or making sure she scheduled time to be with the people she lived with.

While Diana says we are all part of Club Change, she also says some things don’t change or have, in fact, increased.

  1. Relationships are more important than ever.
  2. Connecting – with authenticity counts
  3. Integrity is paramount because remote relationships are unforgiving if trust is broken.