Five Remote Work Skills You Need (Even In a Post-Pandemic Workplace)
Tough time adjusting to working from home? These remote work skills will help you become your most productive and joyful self.
If the pandemic forced you into working from home, by now the euphoria of remote work may be fading.
At first, you celebrated the benefits of working remotely:
- More free time when you don’t have to commute, get dressed, or even take a shower
- More flexible with our schedule
- Greater autonomy in how you get our work done
… just to name a few.
But as time went on, you may have started to experience the downsides of working from home.
- Feeling lonely and isolated
- Struggling to communicate effectively without the nuances and subtleties of body language
- Working longer hours because you’re always connected
As a result, you may find your productivity declining and frustration rising.
This only means you may need to develop specific remote work skills that are necessary for you to be your happiest, most productive self as you work from home. Remote work requires new skills that are less crucial for office workers.
And remote work isn’t going away with the pandemic. Many companies, like Coinbase, have become “remote first,” giving staff the option to work remotely or in an office. Others, like Dropbox, are going completely remote indefinitely. Still others are giving employees the option of working in the office some days and at home on other days.
So unless you want to limit your employment options only with companies that are completely office-based, these remote work skills are important for you.
Here are the 10 most valuable skills remote workers should have to be effective in the new normal.
Five Remote Work Skills for Working from Home
When you work remotely, you have to hold yourself accountable. There won’t be the pressure of your colleagues and clear breaks to keep you focused.
The atmosphere of productivity that an office provides won’t be present at home. No one can stop you from procrastinating by drinking coffee all day or browsing social media.
Develop self-discipline skills by creating daily calendars where you schedule your to-do list into chunks of time. Take breaks between tasks to switch your focus. This is the time to check incoming messages or emails. By keeping a tight hold of your schedule, you’ll make more time to get into a flow state where you do your best work.
A great way to develop more self-discipline is through building habits that lead to productivity.
Here are some resources on building habits that lead to self-discipline, which is one of the key skills for remote work:
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg
2. Effective Communication
We’ve received messages and emails that are vague, long, and leave you frustrated that you have to decipher what someone is trying to say.
Don’t be that person.
When you’re working remotely, your messages must be clear and straightforward. You don’t have the luxury of going to a colleague and working out a thought or plan by going back and forth. You have to have self-discipline (see above) to figure out what you’re trying to get across before you send those messages.
The military has a reliable framework for effective communication that you may find helpful. The BLUF framework stands for Bottom Line Up Front. Put what you want them to do in the first sentence. Leave context for later. If you tell people what you need them to do right away (you put the bottom line upfront), the person reading it will know what they are trying to solve while reading the rest of the message.
3. Show Your Availability
Being available goes hand-in-hand with effective communication.
If there’s always a grey circle beside your picture in Slack or Teams, you’ll send the message that you aren’t available. When people can’t see you in an office, it’s a common courtesy to update your status. Going for a walk? Let people know by updating your status. You can also update your status to show you’re available for impromptu calls. This will create opportunities for people to connect with you even though they don’t have an agenda.
Another effective remote work skill is to let your team know when it’s the best time to contact you. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Utilize the status icon beside your name in Slack or Microsoft Teams.
- Set the expectation with your team when you want to focus and not be contacted.
- Block off time in a shared calendar.
Some people do their best work first thing in the morning. If that’s you, let your team know you’d rather not have a meeting at that time. By being clear with your colleagues when you want to be contacted, you’ll make it much easier for everyone.
4. Responsibility and Accountability
Have you ever had a micro-manager who doesn’t trust you to get your work done? While working remotely, micro-managers can get even more infuriating, specially since they can potentially reach you at all hours.
The best way to show your team and your employers that you’re doing your best work is to be responsible and hold yourself accountable to get the work done when you say you will. If you communicate effectively, meet your deliverables, and update your colleagues on projects regularly, you’ll show that you aren’t procrastinating at home.
This isn’t virtue signalling. It’s showing your team that you’re active and engaged.
Let’s look at an example. Which employee would you trust more?
Your team has just started a project. Everyone has been briefed on what they need to do and they get to work. They have a channel within Slack or Teams to communicate with one another and provide updates.
Employee A takes their brief and gets to work. You don’t hear from them for two or three days and you don’t know where they’re at with the project. As the deadline approaches, they submit their work and let the group know they’re done.
Employee B takes the brief and gets to work. That same day they provide updates in the channel with their progress. They ask questions, provide feedback to others, and bring up new considerations. By the time they submit their deliverables, you’ve already seen drafts and iterations because they’ve asked for feedback.
Which team member are you more likely to want to work with again in the future?
Self-efficacy is simply believing in yourself and your abilities to get things done. It affects all areas of our lives. When you face a big, challenging project do you shrink and avoid the work ahead, or can you calmly get started?
Working remotely can make it hard to rely on the encouragement of others to work through challenges and setbacks. Applying positive psychology is one of the best skills that will serve you in life—no matter where you work. It will also be inspiring for those you work with. Your resilience will help others not feel discouraged in the face of challenges.
If you feel you could improve your self-efficacy try the following:
- Set goals for yourself that stretch you. You’ll grow as you work towards them, and that will motivate you to tackle the other challenges you face.
- Take a break and do things you love. Don’t procrastinate, but spend time doing the things to recharge your mind and prepare you to get back to work.
- Acknowledge setbacks and criticism, but also acknowledge your own achievements and strengths. This will help you reframe negative experiences as growth opportunities.
- Move more slowly when going through challenging tasks. It can be overwhelming when looking at everything that needs to be done. Focus on one thing at a time.
Work Will Never Be the Same Again
The pandemic challenged and stretched and changed the way we work. Things may never go back to the way they were. We’ve entered the age of remote everything—from corporate events and employee onboarding to training and digital apprenticeships.
Are there any benefits to employees from this? Definitely.
It’s an opportunity to choose from more companies, build your personal work-life balance, and avoid unnecessary corporate routines by working from the comfort of your own place.
This is why anyone who wants to be primed for the present and future of work must develop skills for remote work. If you can be productive, effective, collaborative, and happy in a remote work environment, then you’ll be worlds apart from other job candidates many years after the pandemic is behind us.
Ryan Carruthers is the Content Marketing Manager at Together Software, a company that builds software to help enterprise companies run effective mentorship programs within their organizations. Ryan was an Acadium apprentice and leveraged his apprenticeship experience to get a job at Together.
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