5 Ways to Improve Your Skills During Lockdown

If you are currently on furlough or out of work, you may be fed up with Netflix or going for endless walks. The novelty soon wears off. With all the free time you have at your disposal, it is a great time to explore new opportunities and learn new skills. There are endless benefits to upgrading your skills. It gives you the chance to broaden your career prospects, and it helps keep your mind active. It can also boost your mental wellbeing. You may even be able to make some money from it. These are some ways to improve your skills; without it being a financial burden.

Networking and Events

Networking can improve your mental health, while also learning from others. It is particularly beneficial now when many of us are having little communication with our loved ones. There are platforms like Eventbrite, where you can find a range of different events and networking opportunities. Some are free, while others have a small fee. You may also find some other events by looking at your local government website.


We tend to think that any courses we sign up to will be expensive, but there are many free options. The Open University has a wide range of free courses; including history and the arts, health, sports, and psychology, and science. If you are considering a career change or want to enhance your knowledge, there are plenty of options to consider. Other platforms such as Udemy also offer free courses. 

Learn a Language

There’s no excuse to put off learning a language now. Learning languages can improve your career opportunities. It can also allow you to engage with a network of different people. Learning languages is interesting and challenging. There are free language courses on the Open University website (link above), and a quick google search will take you to other resources. You can also get one-to-one tuition from a platform such as Babbel.

Government Courses

The government has resources available for those who want to learn new skills. Some courses are free, including Future LearnBusiness Gateway (Scotland only), and The Skills Toolkit. Take advantage of every free skills resource you can, as this may change when things return to normality.

Hobbies and Interests

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time, now is the ideal opportunity. You never know, you might be able to make money from your hobby. YouTube is a useful resource for getting access to tutorials.

How to Ensure Successful Onboarding of Staff who are Working Remotely

The recent Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many businesses work, with most office workers being encouraged to work from home. According the Office for National Statistics, 86% of those who were working from home in some capacity, did so as a result of the COVID-19. Even when the pandemic comes to an end, many businesses will either be forced or choose to operate on a remote or semi-remote basis. For many, the pandemic has been an eye-opener to how business owners can utilise the skills of people from across the globe. In many cases, there is no real need to work together in an office. The same work can be completed efficiently with remote workers.

The obstacle in all of this is the recruitment and on-boarding of new recruits. How do you onboard new staff without ever meeting them face to face? Is it even possible?

It is possible, but you need to be prepared to alter your current onboarding strategy to adapt it to the remote worker while ensuring they feel welcome and part of the community. These are some tips for the successful onboarding of remote staff.

Develop a Plan

Starting a new job is nerve-wracking enough, but the thought of working remotely can make it feel even more stressful. To ensure new recruits are not worrying about the impending start date, make sure you develop a plan and send it to them at least a few days before they start. The onboarding process should not last a day or two, it should last at least two weeks. This gives the recruit ample time for training, learning the ropes, and settling in. The plan should include what they will do each day, including training, meetings, etc. Do not make the first two weeks heavy for the new start, go easy on them. There is a lot of information to absorb, and you want to ensure they return the next day!

Set Expectations

This is one of the difficulties of remote working and the aspect that business owners find the most difficult to manage. How do you set expectations when you are not in the office together? Consider the following:

What time should their shift commence? If it’s 9 am, for instance, do you want them to be logged in and ready for 9 or do you expect them to start logging in at 9? It may seem pedantic, but it is important to cover your exact requirements with any new starts.

When is the lunch break? Advise them how long they have for lunch and when they should take it. If you don’t have a set time, inform them of this. Do they need to let anyone before logging off or can they suit themselves?

Do you have targets? If you have set targets you expect them to achieve each day, let them know what these are.

Can they work flexibly? What is the general culture of the company? Do you expect them to work rigid hours or are you flexible if the targets are achieved? Some businesses require workers to be at their desk and available during normal working hours, while others don’t care if you work at 4 in the morning if you do the work! It may even be beneficial if you are a global company.

What is the culture? As you are not working face to face, it can be difficult for new starts to get a feel for the culture, so it’s worth giving them some information on this. For example, it may be quite a chatty, relaxed environment or it could be a head down, get on with the work culture. They must understand how they are expected to operate within the business.

Provide Equipment

You should always ensure that the new start has all the necessary equipment. Don’t just assume they have broadband or a laptop. If you are hiring a permanent employee, you should always supply them with a computer/laptop, etc. Not only is this better for the security of files and documents, but they shouldn’t have to use their equipment for work purposes. Also, consider any stationery they may need and a comfortable chair.

Regular Communication

Communication is the most important part of the onboarding process. You don’t have the luxury of speaking to the recruit whenever you want, and it can be easy for people to feel isolated when they are working alone. Make sure you speak to the new start daily during the onboarding process and check that they are getting on well. Find out if they have any questions or concerns. It is a good idea to set up instant messaging or a forum so that employees can get help with any questions they have, quickly and easily. Making your new start feel welcome and part of the company from day one is imperative for successful onboarding.

You can find out more about our HR services, or feel free to contact us for an initial discussion.

Tips for Being Productive When Working from Home

It goes without saying that working from home has a lot of perks. You don’t need to tackle the traffic, stick to a rigid routine or take your breaks at certain times. It can also save you a lot of money, as you don’t need to pay for travel, and you are less likely to nip to the shop for your lunch. However, it does come with its downsides. It can be difficult to treat your days like a normal ‘day in the office’, and consequently, your productivity can plummet.

There are ways to avoid this though, and these are some of our top tips for being productive when working at home.

Work in Short Bursts

When you are working from home, you have the luxury of being able to set your own pace, and even if you have set hours you need to be available, you don’t need to be as rigid with your day. You’ll find that if you work in short bursts, it will be far more effective than trying to work for hours at a time. You may want to set a schedule to work for sets of two hours and take short breaks in-between.

Reduce Social Media

Social media can offer a lot of benefits, but it can also be extremely distracting. You might log on to quickly check your notifications, and before you know it, an hour has passed and all you’ve done is scrolled through content. There is nothing wrong with using social media, but set specific time to use it, otherwise you could lose a lot of time out of your day. Log out of your accounts if it helps or delete the app from your phone.

Set a Routine

Make sure you have a routine set for the day when you are working from home, and one which isn’t too demanding. If you don’t like mornings, make sure you spend the morning on the tasks you enjoy the most and those which don’t take too much brain activity. For example, responding to emails and arranging meetings. Your routine should include your scheduled hours, breaks and you can incorporate your scheduled time for checking social media.

Listen to Music or Podcasts

It’s amazing how important music can be for lift your spirits and making you more productive. If you find it difficult to work with music on, then you can maybe listen to it when you are doing your admin tasks. Podcasts can also be enjoyable, and particularly those which are positive and uplifting.

Manage Expectations

One of the difficulties of working from home is that you may have the day-to-day distractions that your family can bring. Make sure you manage your expectations by setting boundaries. Work in your own quiet space and set times where you don’t want to be distracted. If you have young children at home, try to get into a routine where you work while they are sleeping or give them some things to do while you work. If you have video meetings to attend, make sure you have your own quiet space to undertake them.

Communicate with Others

Although you are working from home, it is not a good idea to get into a routine where you don’t speak to anyone all day. This particularly important if you live on your own. It may be colleagues, clients or you could even arrange to join in networking meetings during your breaks.

If you are working from home and need advice on any issues you are facing at work, get in touch with us to discuss our HR services on 01787 695 084 or email melanie@bluetreehr.uk.