Members of today’s workforce are quickly realizing the benefits of remote work.
Whether it be the ability to work from the comfort of your living room, the extra time it can allow you to spend with family, or even the positive impacts it can have on your focus and productivity, there are many reasons why 70% of professionals work remotely at least one day a week.
With remote work openings on the rise in several different industries, many of today’s professionals are seeking the opportunity to migrate from the office to home.
However, becoming a successful remote employee requires a specific skill set, and the distance from coworkers and supervisors can lend itself to some unique challenges.
In addition to the skills and experience required to do the job duties, remote workers need to have a variety of other talents to successfully work from home.
Here are 5 of the must-have skills to succeed in a remote position:
1) Ability to Work Independently
Although the vast number of technology tools available today have made it much simpler for remote employees to communicate with and work “alongside” colleagues in many different locations, responses from a manager or coworkers often aren’t as quick as walking to the boss’ office or discussing an issue with a coworker in the next cubicle.
Not to mention, remote workers often face communication barriers like opposing time zones or alternative work hours.
As a result, remote workers must be able to work independently, especially when it comes to problem-solving, crisis management, or conceptualizing new ideas. Remote employees work alone, but they must also be able to do their jobs without a great deal of supervision or collaboration.
Employers that hire remote workers typically expect their workers to understand their job and meet expectations without much hand-holding.
In an online forum, Remote.co recently asked a group of employers which traits they look for when hiring remote workers.
Fourteen respondents noted that they look for candidates with some sort of independence, whether it experiences working remotely or freelance, the ability to thrive without face-to-face interaction, or motivation to work on a project on their own.
As GitLab stated, “[Candidates] have to be able to work independently. They have to be disciplined enough to be effective and to work without having a manager watching them all the time.”
2) Excellent Verbal and Written Communication Skills
In any type of role, maintaining effective communication skills is critical. Failure to communicate your thoughts and opinions or a lack of message clarity wastes time and causes frustration.
This is only amplified with the proliferation of tech tools used to communicate—think email, online chat, video meetings, and even phone and text messages. Coupled with remote workers’ inability to meet in-person, solid communication skills become even more important.
Remote workers should be very prompt to reply to any contact from employers. Keep your messages clear, concise, and correct. In other words, be sure to read, edit, and then proofread one more time before pressing “send.”
Nearly all of your interactions with colleagues or managers will be in writing when you work remotely, so make sure each interaction has a clear purpose, is positive, and has an upbeat tone in your voice or written correspondence.
It’s also important to remember that organizations that foster remote teams often have employees “dialling in” from all different locations, sometimes even in other countries. This is one of the major advantages of remote work—employers can hire the best workers regardless of where they live.
This makes for interesting and dynamic work culture, but it can also present problems as language, communication style, culture, and traditions vary around the world. It’s crucial that all employees be aware of and sensitive to these differences, and adapt their communication styles based on these cultural differences.
3) Strong Self Discipline and Daily Practice of Organization
Life as a remote worker is often unstructured, to say the least. For many people, this is one of its most appealing aspects.
Some remote workers can create their schedules, so oftentimes, two days don’t look the same. They may start early and end early one day, they might schedule a mid-afternoon doctor’s appointment, or they may even log hours while on vacation.
However, the flexibility offered by remote work can also be one of its caveats. Remote work comes with a ton of distractions, whether it be watching TV while you work, keeping an eye on your children who are also at home or even avoiding the temptation of logging off an hour early.
Fast Company reported that the biggest distraction for remote workers is the television; 76.1% of remote employees have worked with the TV on. The next is doing personal tasks while on the clock, with 64.6% of remote employees admitting to doing things like paying bills or online shopping.
Other distractions include taking a shower, running errands, exercising, and going out for coffee at 27.6%.
For this reason, remote employees must be able to effectively manage their time and complete their required work.
As Laura Stack, founder of The Productivity Pro, says in the same Fast Company article, “If you are the type of person who can run a few errands, meet a friend for coffee, and go to the gym, and still put in your full work hours, it’s fine to have flexibility, but if you’re the type who is unable to complete work tasks because your activities are interfering, you need a bit more structure.”
For example, a daily work-from-home routine may look like:
- Get up early and exercise to get your body going
- Plan for your day ahead
- Have a few hours of “focus time”
- Plan for the next day
- Wrap up work and disconnect
- Go to sleep early
4) Comfort in Learning and Using Digital Tools
Many organizations’ top reason for not implementing remote work sooner is that they fear that a staff of remote teams can inhibit proper collaboration and communication. Surely remote collaboration isn’t as simple as gathering the team to meet in an in-office conference room, but it’s possible.
Virtual collaboration is on the rise, and the many modern tools available today allow seamless communication on all fronts, whether it be through video chat, phone conference, or even instant messaging.
Effective remote workers should be comfortable with project management programs, video conferencing, and company-specific digital platforms. Each company has its tools and methods for getting work done and keeping workers engaged, so it’s important to feel at ease in learning new digital resources.
When starting a new remote role, be sure to familiarize yourself with the organization’s preferred communication tools as soon as possible.
Every company typically has a set platform for instant messaging, video chat, and project management, among others, so it’s important to become well-versed on the tools you will become reliant on as a successful remote worker.
That said, many employers will not provide computers or other equipment needed to do the job. Instead, the employee may be responsible for obtaining the tools they need. For many new remote workers, their existing computer is sufficient.
But some employers have more technical requirements that may mean buying new equipment, such as a Mac or PC, a headset, or specific software. Before the first day, these tools should be up and running to best communicate with colleagues.
5) Commitment to Work-Life Balance
Remote workers are a prime candidate for burnout.
Why? Many employees who work from home have a difficult time separating their work and personal lives, as both take place from the same location—the home.
Many remote workers have “always-on” feeling and are more likely to continue working long after traditional working hours.
A study by Cardiff University examined 15,000 employees and found that those who work from home are more likely to put in extra hours compared to their office-based counterparts.
Professor Alan Felstead, who led the study said, “The evidence suggests that remote workers are overcompensating to prove to their colleagues they are not in their pyjamas at home and prove to their employers they are a safe pair of hands willing to go the extra mile in return for the discretion an employer gives them to work at home or in a remote location.”
For this reason, remote employees need to effectively maintain a work-life balance.
To combat burnout, remote workers should be sure to create (and stick to) a daily routine, communicate regularly with their team, and remember to leave the house.
One of the worst things that can happen to a remote worker is that they often end up shutting themselves off from the outside world.
Remote workers should take time each day to be with others—go out for a walk with a friend or call someone on the phone. Reach out to avoid burning out from the lack of human interaction.
Sure, these skills are good to show in any job, but they’re crucial when you’re applying for remote work. Make sure they come through loud and clear, and you’ll be a successful remote employee in no time.