2020 brought about a historic shift to remote working. Today, it is more of a norm than an exception for companies to offer some form of working from home. With so many of us used to it, this trend looks set to continue. By 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working from home at least five days a month.
Remote working has the benefits of flexible scheduling, working from anywhere, and having more time to spend with family. But to really succeed, there are a few essential soft skills you need. Let’s take a look these skills and how you should incorporate them while you are working remotely.
This is probably the most important soft skill when working from home. In the office, you have resources like on-site IT support, supplies, and colleagues to ask for help. When you’re working from home, you may have to do a lot more independent troubleshooting. You’ll have to adapt your working style to what is available to you and what is available to your teammates.
If you are a manager, investigate ways to develop your team’s strategic skillset as well as working on your own adaptability. Use practice exercises to encourage your employees to visualize the ways they could adapt to different scenarios. What should they do if their internet connection is bad during a video meeting? What should they do if something breaks or they don’t have access to a file when they need it?
Adaptability is a soft skill that is essential for productivity at work - both from home and at the office. An employee that can adapt will come up with innovative solutions for your company’s most pressing problems. Adaptability is particularly important when combined with effective sales skills. Employees that can adapt sales strategies to individual customers will close deals more often, and with a higher rate of customer satisfaction.
2) Strong Written Communication
Strong written communication is vital for the modern workplace. In the Job Outlook 2020 report, they found that 77.5% of employers seek strong written communication on a candidate’s resume. The need for excellent written communication skills amplifies in a remote work environment.
While video calls are great for meetings, it isn’t practical for more casual communication. However, regular communication must occur for a cohesive and productive workplace. This means that team members are using written communication to coordinate with each other throughout the day.
Look into the best team chat software for your company. Having this software can keep teams connected, even in a virtual environment. Encourage your team to use the chat to check-in with team members and coordinate tasks.
To really thrive, employees need to be able to clearly and concisely communicate what they need. Whether that’s through team chat or emails, written communication is vital.
Even in a remote work environment, team collaboration can reduce errors and increase employee satisfaction and productivity. Fostering a work culture that promotes collaboration and is consistently practiced on an individual and team level. In Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report, 41% of employees stated that it changed how they collaborate and communicate.
When we work at home, it can be tempting to retreat into individual projects. To combat that, have regular meetings and find ways to keep connected with your team members. Being able to collaborate online is a soft skill that employers should seek out in their employees if you have your teamwork remotely even one day a week.
When hiring, consider the ability and track record of working with a team in employee attributes. Then set clear goals, company vision, and employee expectations to build collaboration skills in a remote workplace. Also, consider ways to promote team building outside the workday. This can be achieved through in-person retreats and activities and online games, movies, or mixers.
Working at home provides a lot of benefits, but there are challenges too. Social isolation can cause increased anxiety and sleeplessness. This can be combated with good levels of communication and collaboration. Businesses need to address the issues of remote working proactively and take initiative to create positivity for the work community.
Creating this optimism within the workplace needs to come from individual employees and management. Consider getting effective performance management tools to create goals and give recognition to your employees that meet individual and team goals. These tools should not be used to criticize your employees but to empower them. Give your employees goals to encourage them to work together to produce the best possible results.
Even in the office, this is an essential soft skill for productive employees. There are constant distractions at home and at work that can prevent a team from doing their best work. At work, it’s open plan offices, watercooler chats, and noisy office mates. At home, it’s more likely to be pets, children, and partners - factors that aren’t accounted for in typical employee monitoring software. There are some strategies you can use to help you stay focused while remote working.
Use your flexible schedule to your advantage
If you know that you are most productive at a certain time of day, schedule your most important tasks then. Then fill in the part of the day that you are least productive with less important or less time-consuming tasks. Invest in call management solutions to help manage customer calls throughout the day.
This may seem obvious if you have always been a list-maker. However, making a physical list and pinning it where you see it can help keep you focused. It serves as a reminder and a motivator. A list can also provide a sense of closure at the end of your workday. Making a list for tomorrow can allow you to start the next day with a sense of purpose.
At its core, compassion is empathy plus action. It is an essential quality in great employees and effective leaders. When a company is working remotely, employees need to have compassion for their fellow team members and themselves. There are many in-demand soft and hard skills needed for a business to run efficiently, but they all need to be carried out with a sense of compassion. Consider the following to help develop your compassion when remote working.
- Acknowledge the challenges of working from home.
- Do regular check-ins with team members to see how they are doing emotionally and physically.
- Make it easy for team members to ask for help and be generous.
- Make yourself available to your teammates.
If you are hiring employees, look for people that have this soft skill. With current employees, encourage and give opportunities for them to show compassion for each other. Make it easy for employees to voice concerns and to communicate about matters that do not relate to their work-related responsibilities.
Working from home requires team members to be able to take initiative and make decisions. While there should always be a way for employees to ask questions, individuals may have to make quick decisions in their day-to-day tasks.
For instance, if you are part of a call center, consider looking at call center QA - tips and tools to improve quality assurance. This can help you take initiative to improve the customer experience. Quality assurance (QA) ensures that you are performing according to the standards of your company.
Taking steps like these and showing initiative makes you more productive and an active participant in your company’s vision. This can give you a sense of purpose in your position and create a more proactive work environment. In a remote work environment taking initiative may start with cultivating the essential digital skills to be fully engaged at work.
8) Time Management
Last (but certainly not least), time management is an essential skill when working from home. Procrastination can plague us both inside and outside the office. However, there are tools you can use to help manage your time effectively.
Make a schedule
Even if you have a flexible workday, make sure you keep a schedule of your daily tasks. You can also use a schedule template to have team members communicate the times they are and are not available. Doing these two things can boost productivity and communication by making team members and yourself responsible for your time.
Make technology work for you
Automate the processes that you need to do day to day to optimize your time. Set reminders on your phone or computer to help keep you on top of your schedule. Remote working means you never stray too far from your tech, so make it work for you.
You should also make available tech work for your customers. Consider getting call queueing solutions, CRM software, or chatbots. All of these solutions can help improve the service you provide - as well as making your life easier.
If one thing has become clear in 2021, it’s that remote working is here to stay.
As individuals and as businesses, we need to start fostering the soft skills essential for working from home. If your company is considering incorporating remote work as an option for your team members, consider creating a transitional strategy that offers training in these skills.
Another way to foster the development of these soft skills is by investing in a remote employee monitoring software that makes tracking their progress easier and more valuable for future workplace strategies. These skills will benefit your business overall and create a happier, healthier work environment.