Before 2020, only a handful of freelancers in selected professions worked from home. Then a pandemic happened and during the ensuing lockdowns, many large companies were forced to try a different model that didn’t require physical presence. They soon discovered that workers can actually be more effective when they are allowed to be away from the office.
Of course, working from home is easier than before as more and more remote work tools come out. But remote working also has its own challenges and workers have to adjust to the new reality. It sounds great to work in your pajamas, but that doesn’t prevent you from meeting the deadlines and hitting the targets. A whole new set of skills becomes important in this context, and only workers that are able to adopt it can be successful long term.
All of those skills can be practiced, so the current hiring trends represent a good opportunity to learn which ones are the most essential in the new economy. This article can help in that regard as we will try to explain the nature of remote work and identify the professional traits that lead to consistently good results.
Since the concept of remote work includes many different types of engagements, it’s not easy to define what exactly remote work skills are. Many different jobs can be performed by distributed teams or individuals operating outside of the corporate office, and each of those jobs is associated with a unique set of related competences. However, these wouldn’t necessarily be seen as remote work skills.
In this sense, we are talking more about the ‘soft skills’ that allow the worker to stay productive even when he is not present in the office and are directly controlled by his boss. Such abilities may also be relevant in office work, but they mean much more in a decentralized system where workers have to be more proactive and more accountable.
Here are some of the reasons why remote work skills are so important right now:
It’s very easy to start procrastinating and wasting time when no one is looking over your shoulder, but this practically guarantees that you will fail to complete your tasks. The same outcome is likely if the worker spends too much time on certain parts of the task.
One of the greatest challenges that people who try remote work for the first time experience is how to optimally organize their time without the infrastructure that office workers can count on. The solution is to start establishing routines that make the most sense to the individual, and to be objective when projecting how much can be done in a certain timeframe. It’s normal to make a few mistakes early on, but reliable remote workers have to become masters of time management and deliver right on schedule every time.
Physical isolation of remote workers makes direct collaboration a bit trickier than in the traditional, office-based team. There are excellent online collaboration tools that can fill this gap, but they are only useful if the entire team is using them willingly and in good faith. It’s possible to work collaboratively on the same documents in the cloud, share the content of the screen, and vote about ideas without being in the same room, so there is a lot of potential for team synergy.
However, remote workers have to overcome any resistance towards using shared digital workspaces and become savvy about different functions that software platforms for online collaboration include. An open-minded and well-educated workforce is a precondition for the continued viability of this mode of work.
When people communicate exclusively through electronic means, it’s much easier for a misunderstanding to occur, potentially with far-reaching consequences. While there is no shortage of communication channels based on text, audio, or video that remote workers can use, getting the whole message through without any help of body language can be difficult. Responding in a timely manner, using clear terminology, and focusing on the most important aspects of the conversation are some of the key principles that matter in this type of communication.
Remote workers should also learn to double-check the meaning of incoming messages before acting upon them and to react immediately if they notice anything that contradicts earlier interactions.
Managers sometimes struggle to keep everyone on the same page when half of the team is away from the office. This is largely because remote workers tend to choose their own hours and use a variety of software tools, potentially creating incompatibilities.
This is why workers who are mindful of the team spirit and able to function as a part of a group even without physical presence are increasingly regarded as very valuable. Some of the standard team-building exercises (i.e office parties or shared retreats) are incompatible with the remote model, necessitating the use of digital means to achieve internal cohesion and prevent personal conflicts.
Productivity can be hard to maintain with too many temptations around, so workers who are spending their time in a private setting simply have to be self-driven.
In traditional nine-to-five work there are clear dictums that have to be met, from the time when the workers arrive to the office to the obligation to answer the phone, attend all daily meetings and briefings, etc. Drumming up the energy to complete a lot of tasks within a short timeframe may not be so easy when you are all alone and rely only on your willpower.
Some people use motivational quotes or specialized software to ensure they can withstand the grind without requiring constant monitoring and pushing. On the positive side, highly motivated remote workers easily stand out from the crowd and gain the approval of their superiors.
This may be the rarest of the must-have remote skills that only a small portion of employees display. It’s very human to wait for guidance from above, but this can be disastrous when that guidance isn’t readily available and reaction times are limited.
Smart companies are supporting independent decision-making and personal initiative, especially from mid-career professionals in responsible positions. On the flip side, workers need to learn how to express their views while respecting corporate boundaries and staying connected to the overall vision of the management. It’s a balancing act, but those who master it can expect a lot of success in the future as more and more businesses adopt flexible forms of work.
Knowing when your performance is good enough isn’t easy without instant feedback from colleagues and team leaders. It’s true that many organizations use productivity trackers and analytic tools to measure the contributions of each employee, but these are imperfect instruments that often miss crucial aspects of performance.
Instead of trying to manipulate the metrics, workers need to be honest about their shortcomings and take full responsibility for any past mistakes. Recognizing the areas where improvement is needed is the only way to fix the issues preventing a higher output and being fair to the rest of the team. An attitude of this kind also helps to develop the core skills to a higher level, which can be instrumental for sustained career growth.
Workers who perform their duties remotely have many things working in their favor, but they are also expected to have some additional skills and competences. Since remote work and decentralized teams are here to stay, it’s wise to start acquiring those must-have skills even if you are currently sitting in an office.
Those skills can be useful in any environment, and they provide workers with additional flexibility and a better negotiation position when attempting to get a raise or searching for new jobs. While the list of in-demand skills will continue to evolve along with the business methodologies, adopting some of those mentioned above is a great way to start this transition on a good note.