The style of “working remotely” has brought up challenges (distractions, barriers to productivity, etc.) that many employees have suddenly come face to face with for the first time over the past few months. As a result, new and existing skills have been brought into the spotlight.
The ultimate question arises: What are the best skills for remote work?
Workable employees – operating in a fully remote environment over the past few months – recently filled out an internal survey to help us gain insight:
Here are the resultant top skills for working remotely in an efficient way, and how our peers ranked them:
Personal skills for remote workers
Resourcefulness & Versatility
Have you ever hit a dead end in a project and rolled your chair towards your teammate to ask for some help? What if you didn’t have that convenience and you had to figure it out yourself? How would you do that?
That’s where resourcefulness and versatility come in. Being able to maneuver your skills and knowledge to learn new things and break down all kinds of challenges – even IT stuff – is a process that you face almost every day when working remotely. In a Workable employee’s own words:
“Resourcefulness – I think this is important in a remote work setting as you do not have someone sitting next to you who you can ask every question to. Being able to find information on your own is an important skill to work efficiently while working remotely.”
In the field of positive psychology, self-efficacy is defined as “the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully”.
But why do remote workers need self-efficacy? Things are quite simple.
This particular measurable skill comes along with self-control, motivation, confidence, resilience and discipline. Since remote workers are “alone workers” most of the time – especially in an asynchronous environment – this skill set is the main ingredient to maintain internal focus towards completion and success.
“Self-efficacy and time management are by far the most important soft skills for a remote worker (which are also difficult to learn too). They both help the employee to focus on the tasks at hand and execute upon them.”
People skills for remote workers
Communication, Επικοινωνία, Comunicación, Comunicação, Kommunikation
Imagine being at the office, walking down the hallway to ask Steve for clarification about the project you are working on. You find him, share your thoughts, and now you’re ready to get back to work. Great!
Now, what if Steve was not at the end of the hallway, but at the other side of the world, just getting ready to dive into deep sleep? Of course you’ll write down all the questions and thoughts you want to share and send them over – fingers crossed you don’t forget anything – but you will probably not get your answers until a few hours later. So delivering to-the-point messages is crucial for a distributed team with an asynchronous model of communication.
Now let’s make it a little more tricky: Your virtual office will probably have multinational people, which means you won’t speak the same native language, nor share the same culture.
And here is where cross-cultural literacy comes aboard. When it comes to communicating, being understanding, patient and open to diversity are major remote work skills.
As another employee put it:
“Respect. Time sensitivity. (I am respecting my colleagues’ time, do not schedule useless meetings that can be discussed in a Slack channel). Introvert at times. No need to discuss too much in order to get things done.”
As a remote worker, you may physically work alone, but at the end of the day, you are still part of a team spread all over the world – well, at least sometimes – and it is quite easy to forget that you are part of a broader group of people with a wide range of cultural backgrounds.
And you are not to blame!
Sitting alone at your desk at home is the polar opposite of being in an office with busy hallways. However, you are not alone, and teamwork not only boosts productivity, but also works like an invisible chain holding the company together.
One employee highlighted teamwork as one of the best skills for remote work:
“Top skill is to be a team player, always sharing information with your team about your current/future work, blocking issues, etc, as well as proactively help and guide your colleagues.”
Organizational skills for remote workers
Adaptability & Flexibility
Adaptability and flexibility represent the ability to easily adjust and bend to changes. Whether this is a strategy turnaround, or simply the fact that your dinner table becomes your office spot for some hours per day.
A recent Upwork survey on remote work found that 32% of respondents said that increased distractions at home have impacted performance. Even though some circumstances, in fact, cannot be totally controlled – such as parenting at home – being adaptable and flexible are major assets for dealing with and breaking daily walls.
“A lot of it is about discipline and mindset. It’s easy to go through the ritual of getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast, go out the door and into your commute to work,” one Workable employee said. “Working remotely means you don’t have to do any of these things (apart from breakfast). The sudden shift from kitchen/breakfast to your office setting and getting into ‘work mode’ is sometimes jarring – so you have to somehow be able to make that shift in your mindset as you do it.”
Time management & Multitasking
The clock is ticking and each tick brings you closer to two crucial deadlines, your upcoming big meeting, the arrival of that delayed package you’re expecting, and your daughter’s volleyball practice that you will have to drive her to. Can you handle all these in a way so as to sign off at 7 p.m. as scheduled?
Time management and multitasking is all about combining and organizing tasks and being on time – if not ahead. Working from home enables you to add more family time and household chores to your daily routine, but you have to be able to manage all these, along with your workload.
Being organized with time was a popular subject in our survey:
“Time management is the number one soft skill required to work efficiently whether working remotely or in the office. Understanding that even though you’re at home, you have to manage your work day and accomplish everything that you would be expected to accomplish in the office is important”
Another employee highlighted the value of multitasking:
“I am able to juggle several conversations/tasks. An asynchronous work style often bleeds from the macro into the micro, so being able to address a peer’s questions while working on a project while also digesting a previous meeting is a common occurrence during a typical workday at home. Being able to separate and juggle concepts (and knowing when to do which), has allowed me to get more done more effectively.”
Strategic skills for remote workers
Critical thinking & Decision making
These two skills do apply to physical workplaces as well, but that does not mean that they are less needed in a remote workforce.
In fact, both critical thinking and decision making are skills that help remote workers:
- Examine available options
- Manage difficult situations
- Take action effectively
Managers won’t be available the whole time. So being able to analyze and make the right decisions quickly are two of the best skills that any remote employee should have.
One employee said it as much, when asked to highlight an essential skill in the remote worker’s toolkit:
“Independence: because you do not have your coworkers and especially your manager close by for the ‘little things’, you have to make decisions and believe in yourself to make progress.”
Consider this challenging scenario: Your manager values your skills and assigns you a task which is quite new to you. After providing some guidelines of what you have to do, your manager signs off for the day.
You plan your approach to the task at hand and start working on it.
Suddenly, a problem pops up and no one is there to help get through it – at least not for the day.
You slump back in your chair, rubbing your eyes. What do you do?
The above scenario is not as rare as it may seem at first sight. As a remote worker you will have experience with that feeling of not knowing what to do and not having someone to assist you at the time needed.
Who or what can save the day?
Your problem-solving skills, says one employee:
“In a remote environment, it’s important to be able to solve problems on your own. You might not be able to walk up to someone’s desk and ask them a question, so being able to figure out things on your own is very important.”
Working remotely might be a challenge for some, but it is a great opportunity to gain valuable experience and skills, you think while brushing your teeth before bedtime. At the end of the day what matters the most is evolving, both personally and professionally, whether you’re working remote or not.
And to be sure, having all of those skills will get you a full good night’s sleep and a fresh start to another day of remote work in the morning – after your coffee and breakfast, that is!