RIYADH: With Saudis under lockdown and confined to their homes for the foreseeable future, many have taken up learning new skills to while away the time.
The fact that many of the country’s employees are working from home means they have a lot of free time. Many are using this as an opportunity to broaden their skillsets by enrolling in online courses.
Many websites offer university-affiliated courses that are being taught by experts. Courses can vary in length from a few hours to a regular, weekly commitment over several months. They typically involve video lectures, and can even include exams.
Husain Nusair, a human resources administrator from Dammam, has been trying to divide his free time equally between learning new skills and taking some much-needed downtime.
He is also focusing on his health, as many personal trainers and gyms are offering online fitness classes.
“I’m focusing in my free time on working on myself, performing exercises such as cardio and fixing up my diet. I’m also continuing my piano practice and some art projects,” he told Arab News.
“I’m planning to start developing some soft skills, such as negotiating skills and how to manage my boss in the workplace.”
Hamza Taibah, a senior student of chemical engineering, plans to pick up a few new skills once the semester is officially over and he is done with his finals and projects.
“I’m enrolling in a class to learn Python (a programing language), and either a project management or finance class. I haven’t chosen yet,” he told Arab News.
He is also planning to work on his physical fitness. “We have a mini gym at home, so I’m going to be using it on a daily basis,” he said. “I’m in a challenge with a friend and the winner can claim bragging rights. I can’t lose.”
Mneerah Al-Khalil, a project manager, and some friends have started a book club. “There’s four of us right now, and we meet once a week via Zoom to discuss a book,” she told Arab News.
“Due to our respective workloads, we choose one no more than 200 pages long, and take turns choosing a book every week.”
Keeping oneself stimulated and finding new ways to learn skills can make the eventual return to work smoother and open doors to new opportunities.
But not everyone has the time, energy or even emotional capacity to devote themselves to learning a new skill at the moment.
With many people experiencing fear, anxiety and even depression over the current state of things, some argue that we should not be too hard on ourselves.
Riyadh-based artist Sara Oulddaddah says while learning a new skill is all well and good, people should not feel guilty about not having the time or the drive to pick up something new given the current circumstances.
“A lot of people don’t see that there’s a middle ground between trying to be productive and slacking off completely,” she told Arab News.
“If you manage to develop a skill in this time and learn new things, that’s great and optimal, but also if you don’t and just take care of yourself and your loved ones, it’s OK,” she added.
“There’s no need to have this feeling of guilt for not using so-called spare time in this crisis. People don’t need that extra pressure to be added to this already stressful situation. Taking care of yourself and your loved ones is enough. Stay safe and healthy.”