COVID-19 has not only turned millions of Americans into remote workers; it's also forced countless people to effectively be homebound as restrictions are implemented nationwide and the call to socially distance is being sounded at full force. Of course, if you're not used to working from home, or being home, for days on end, it can be a jarring and isolating experience. But the silver lining is that you now have a real opportunity to use this time to move your career forward. Here's how.

1. Learn a new skill or take a course

You may not have much free time during the workday to dabble in new things, but if you're a relatively social person whose evening and weekend plans are off for the foreseeable future, why not use that time to build job skills? If you're not great at putting together presentations or manipulating formulas on spreadsheets, learn how. If you're lacking a key skill that's specific to your job -- say, a certain software or programming language -- sign up for an online class. The more steps you take to make yourself valuable, the more successful you'll be in the long run.

Smiling man at laptop sitting on couch


2. Get better at communication

Staying in touch with your colleagues and manager can be difficult when you're suddenly pushed into a remote work arrangement, so be mindful of the ways you can communicate effectively, and learn to improve in that regard. For example, if you find that you're sending more emails than usual these days, work on learning to be more concise. Communication is an important soft skill that applies to workers at any job, so it's a good one to focus on.

3. Learn more about your industry

Maybe you landed in your field by chance, and don't know much about how it works on a whole. But now's your chance to do some learning. You can research your industry's history online, or read more news articles that discuss relevant present-day issues.

4. Practice time management

Working from home doesn't mean you're off the hook with regard to your job-related responsibilities. Quite the contrary -- you'll need to learn how to tackle your key tasks while also managing the other things you need to do during the day, like cooking, cleaning, and, if you're a parent, caring for kids who are stuck home from school. Challenging as this may be, you're likely getting a crash course in time management, so think about the things that are and aren't working for you, and use them to guide your approach to your job once the current crisis subsides.

Being cooped up at home isn't easy under normal circumstances, and during these trying times, you may be ready to explode. But while it may be difficult to see the positive in all of this, if you manage to use this time to advance your career, you'll have something to be grateful for once life is able to return to normal.