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Not working due to lockdown? Here's how to keep busy and learn new skills

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Using time in furlough to invest in personal growth and learning relevant new skills can help people maintain their confidence and motivation, says Namrata Murlidhar, marketing director at LinkedIn Learning. 

What furlough means for employees' pay in the context of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic varies slightly in different parts of the world but it is generally understood as a leave of absence. 

While affected workers will therefore have more free time on their hands, activities are also limited to the confines of your home due to widespread lockdown measures during the pandemic. 

"Keeping yourself stimulated and finding new ways to learn essential skills can make the eventual return to work smoother, or open doors to new opportunities in the future, " said Murlidhar, urging furloughed workers to also stick to a routine as much as possible. 

Jo Cresswell, careers expert at jobs site Glassdoor, said that the increasing number of workers being furloughed "shines a spotlight on the importance of transferable skills." 

This applied to those who have been laid off and who are looking at a possible change of career in order to rejoin the workforce quickly, as well as those looking to hone their abilities to return to their job "stronger and more efficient," she said.

Key skills that she said are essential to keep polished during this time include active listening, which is not only listening to respond but to also interpret the true meaning of what is being communicated to you and being able to respond accordingly. 

Similarly, she highlighted the importance of communication skills, both verbal and written, with a focus on the ability to be "clear, concise and logical." 

Organizational skills are also key, Cresswell said, in maintaining the ability to meet deadlines, multi-task and to "always know the status of any activity point." 

Digital courses 

Dominic Harvey, director at U.K. IT jobs site CWJobs, encouraged people on temporary leave to seek out free online courses to expand their knowledge and existing skillsets, adding that he himself had recently started a Google digital course in marketing. 

Another platform is edX, which has a range of free online courses, from top universities like Harvard, including "Modern masterpieces of world literature." There are also courses focused on soft skills, such as "Creative thinking: Techniques and tools for success" by Imperial College London. 

Learning platform Coursera has both free and subscription courses, including soft skill courses like "Improving communication skills" by business school Wharton.

"Workers who undertake these courses will certainly benefit as business and HR leaders will value and recognize the proactivity to diversifying their skill sets during down time," Harvey said. 

Half of U.K. employers are expecting to furlough staff due to the economic strain put on their business by the pandemic, according to a survey of 301 human resource workers by British body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, published last week. 

Meanwhile, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found in a poll of 254 U.S. companies in March, that 37% of employers said that they were likely to furlough employees in the next three months.

Check out: Laid off or unemployed? Here's how to qualify for a credit card when you've just lost your job

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