The pandemic has permanently changed the professional culture. While many companies offered some flexibility and remote work options before the COVID-19 crisis, the pandemic accelerated that trend. According to Glassdoor’s Chief Economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, June 2020 saw more than 40 percent of Americans working remotely full-time.
Dr. Chamberlain points out that the remote work trend stands to persist, at least in part, after the danger of COVID-19 subsides: “While the COVID-19 crisis forced many employers to rethink outdated policies against remote work — mostly for the best — both history and data suggest that most workers will ultimately return to in-person work arrangements once it’s safe to do so. However, the lessons learned in 2020 about the value of flexibility and working-from-home will forever change companies’ openness to hybrid office environments. In 2021 we expect workers splitting time between home and the office to be a more common workplace policy.”
What that means for employees, job seekers, and soon-to-be grads is that remote work skills are key abilities to master. Here are four essential soft skills you need to have for a remote role.
Up your self-management skills.
Even if you have an excellent manager directing your big picture moves, you must be organized and self-directed to be a strategic remote operator. That means procuring the supplies, tools, resources, and work environment that it takes to feel comfortable and focused.
It’s on you to make the arrangement work-troubleshooting challenges and manage them deftly so they don’t interfere with your ability to produce. “You need to be proactive. When working remotely, your manager is less likely to notice if you’re struggling, getting through a project slowly, confused, frustrated, etc. So you need to speak up if you do not understand a project or if a task isn’t going well. Don’t wait for it to become an emergency.” Advises Biron Clark, Former recruiter and founder of Career Sidekick.
Making this work means navigating the unique challenges to the arrangement and managing those as they surface. “Next, to be a successful remote worker, you’ll need to be disciplined and capable of building strong work habits.” Clark points out. “You’ll likely be tempted to multitask when you have so much freedom. Many new remote workers jump back and forth between personal tasks and work tasks, for example. Yet, the most successful remote workers that I’ve seen set clear boundaries between personal and work life and follow a consistent schedule and routine.”
Up your communication game.
When you’re a remote employee, communicating clearly, concisely, and comprehensively is a “must-have.” Part of this awareness understands when a written message will get the job done and when you need to grab the phone and talk something, though.
When you are preparing written correspondence, recognize that those grammar rules that our high school teachers emphasized are not just an exercise in fussiness. They’re all about clarity. They show your reader how to make sense of the ideas you’re shaping. Clark writes: “It’s crucial to make sure that you’re using unambiguous terms and communicating in a way that minimizes the chance you’ll be misunderstood.”
Because remote operators rely so heavily on written correspondences, it pays to take a refresher course so that you can communicate with confidence. Grammar girl offers a variety of helpful resources. Clark likes Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning for a variety of refresher courses.
Clark points out that enhancing your writing skills can itself become a remote career. “Writing is a handy skill because it can almost always be performed remotely, whether you’re helping a company with their blog and content marketing, or working in a more specialized field like technical writing, medical writing, etc.”
Up your self-advocacy game.
When you’re a telecommute, and the rest of your team is in the office, sometimes you can feel less visible than your colleagues, even when you’re doing great work. It’s on you to make yourself, and your needs are known. Working remotely benefits both you and your employer, so you don’t have to feel sheepish about your set-up. Expect to be treated just like any other employee.
Clark explains, “you need to be comfortable advocating for yourself to ensure you receive enough training, support, professional development opportunities, and one-on-one time with your boss. Speak up if you need something. Remember that it’s your manager’s job to help you develop as a worker. That’s a part of their duties, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to succeed as a remote worker, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting or home office supplies. This is especially important in an organization where the majority of employees are not working remotely because your manager might not think to offer something that you need.”
Find a remote role that fits your life.
If you’re ready to pursue a remote role, use Glassdoor’s Guide to finding a remote job. Learn the basics and set your profile to target remote roles to how to prepare for your interviews. You’ve got this!