How to learn from others while working from home

Bilde av dame som jobber på hjemmekontor.
HOME OFFICE: 66 per cent of CEMS Alumni fear that a hybrid working environment will limit their ability to learn from other colleagues, shows a LinkedIn poll conducted by CEMS. In response, the global alliance has published two sets of guidelines to ensure that valuable learning from colleagues continues, despite many companies not returning to the office full-time. Photo: Unsplash / Jenny Ueberberg
NHH By Ingrid Aarseth Johannessen

3 February 2022 11:01

How to learn from others while working from home

Many fear that a hybrid workplace will damage their ability to learn from colleagues. Here are ten tips from the CEMS alliance on how to learn more effectively from the home office.

Kaisa Sofia Pietikäinen, Postdoctoral Fellow at NHH.
Kaisa Sofia Pietikäinen, Postdoctoral Fellow at NHH. Photo: Hallvard Lyssand

Two-thirds of CEMS alumni (510 respondents) fear that not working at the office full time will limit their ability to learn from colleagues, shows a LinkedIn poll conducted by the global alliance CEMS last summer.

In response to this, the alliance has published two sets of guidelines – one aimed at employees and one at employers – to ensure that valuable learning from colleagues continues, despite many companies not returning to the office full-time.

The guidelines are based on interviews with experts from among CEMS 34 global academic partners, 69 corporate partners and eight non-profit organisations. 

Reserve time for chatting

Kaisa Sofia Pietikäinen, Postdoctoral Fellow at NHH, believes that many will benefit from the CEMS tips. She points out, in line with tip number three for employees, the importance of reserving time for informal chatting. Pietikäinen is an expert on intercultural communication and teaches the CEMS course "Global Leadership Practice" at NHH.

‘In my office, we have a quiz session on Teams every Friday. Everyone turns their cameras on and reserves half an hour to hang out with colleagues. The quiz questions don’t matter that much, but it’s a great way to feel connected to your team if you’re otherwise stuck at home. Also, that way, you will increase your likelihood of being included in other social gatherings.’

Pietikäinen also points out that social media is underrated when it comes to relationship building at the workplace:

‘It is much easier to start a conversation, both online or physically, with someone you have regularly seen in your LinkedIn or Facebook feed. However, don’t be offended if your boss or colleague doesn’t want to “friend” you back ­– some people like to keep business and social life apart. If you’re not too keen on social media, you can use the internal messaging app to strike up a conversation. In the Nordic countries, you might be surprised how many modern leaders will think positively of such activities!’


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The five CEMS tips for employees:

  1. Seek to work for employers who can help you build your internal network: At the recruitment stage, always ask prospective employers how they can help you build your internal network to learn from others within the organisation. Any organisation of reasonable size ought to have some good tools and platforms in place. If not, keep looking.
  2. Create international ‘water-cooler’ moments: Discussions can be extended to reach far wider than just your own location in the world, as virtual interaction allows us to connect across borders and timelines.
  1. Reserve time for informal chatting as well as formal meetings: Think of the informal time you would have with colleagues if you were in the same location and reserve that amount of time for informal chatting: have a virtual coffee break or a digital lunch together. 
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: If you want to learn exactly how to do a certain task, ask a colleague to share their screen and allow you to watch them performing it.  
  1. Learn from colleagues about both work and life: Such learning not only enriches knowledge but also enhances bonding among colleagues.

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‘Ask for help’

Pietikäinen believes that the first tip for employees on getting help on building internal network is a good one, but Nordic companies will not always have such measures in place:

‘Nordic employers will rather throw the employee in at the deep end and see if they can swim! It will take some time to create new networks and to build trust between you and your colleagues, but what I find a nice way to break the ice is to ask for help. It will make you appear less face-threatening  and will also create an opportunity to engage in some small talk, so you can get to know each other better,’ she says. 

About CEMS

  • CEMS is a global alliance of 34 academic members (leading business schools), 69 corporate partners (multinational companies) and eight non-profit organisations dedicated to educating and preparing future generations of international business leaders, through the top ranked CEMS Master's in International Management (MIM).
  • The CEMS MIM is a one-year, pre-experience programme delivered by CEMS Academic and Corporate partners that offers students the opportunity to be educated in a multicultural and boundless classroom.

The five CEMS tips for employers:

  1. Make sure leaders lead by example: In addition to creating platforms for learning, employees will be even more enthusiastic to learn when they see their leaders lead the way, set the tone and act as role models in work-life integration.
  2. Put platforms in place to create upskilling opportunities: Some institutions leave networking and upskilling to individuals, but the most productive help their people do it more effectively.  
  3. Embrace mentoring and sponsorship: Professionals benefit from being assigned a mentor, but they also need to have sponsors who are committed to opening doors, introducing them to other key players in the organisation, expanding their network, and advocating on their behalf.
  4. Make sure colleagues can still meet face-to-face: Without a structure of and plan for common face time and without visible, inclusive leadership, the workforce may feel left outside or left behind.
  5. Allow informal meeting time: Make sure to open up social time in the schedule. A lot of the most impactful learning and innovation arises from casual conversations between colleagues.

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