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The Skills You Need to Be a Successful Remote Employee

ByChris Christoff,
business.com writer
| Last Modified
Aug 14, 2019
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> Career
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Remote work is on the rise. Many professionals are choosing to ditch their 9-to-5 office jobs for the flexibility of working from anywhere. With all the technological advances available, fewer people feel the need to confine themselves to a cubicle and see the freedom in working remotely.

According to research by Buffer, 99% of respondents said they would prefer to telecommute at least some of the time. More and more brands are accepting of a remote lifestyle for their employees, and hiring managers predict that, in the next 10 years, 38% of the U.S. workforce will work from home

Besides being able to work in pajamas, there are many benefits to obtaining a remote position.

Some might think that working from home and having that freedom means less productivity and more slacking off to do other things, but studies show this isn't the case. In a recent study by Stanford University, researchers found that when employees worked from home, their productivity drastically increased. The time they usually spent chatting with co-workers, commuting to and from work, and taking breaks was now used to complete full workdays.

Telecommuting is also good for your health. In FlexJobs' 2018 annual survey, 77% of respondents said having a flexible job would allow them to adopt healthier habits such as exercising and eating better. Working from home enables people to work in a personalized, comfortable space of their choice, which encourages a healthier state of mind. 

Working remotely is also good for the environment. Did you know that in the past 50 years alone, humans have consumed more resources than in all previous history? The amount of greenhouse gas reductions due to people working from home is the equivalent of taking 600,000 cars off the road for a year. It reduces traffic congestion, requires little to no paper or office resources, and decreases the consumption of fossil fuels.  

Now that you know why remote work is so beneficial, here are the five skills you need if you want to succeed in this type of position.

1. Time management

When you work from home, you don't have co-workers and bosses physically near you to remind you to stay on task and meet your deadlines. When companies build a remote team, they're looking for an independent worker who's responsible in managing their time and scheduling projects.

If someone is consistently late or isn't good at tracking the time, remote work likely isn't for them. People don't realize that time management, like the other needed skills, takes mental preparation. If you want to complete work and attend online meetings on time, it's essential to prepare yourself mentally for those events.

Creating a space in your mind for time management is crucial – not just for work, but in all areas of life. You benefit when you're present at the right time and complete tasks in the expected timeframe. It keeps you ahead of the game and gives you less to worry about when you make mental notes about your upcoming to-do list.

There are several tools and tactics you can use to manage your time more effectively. You can use a tool like Toggl to track how you spend your time and how much time you spend on each task. You can also use the Pomodoro technique, which is when you work for 25 minutes at a time and take routine breaks to recharge. Use a wall calendar or day planner to list your upcoming tasks and check them off as you complete them.

2. Communication

You're in a completely different environment when you have a remote position. You aren't traveling to work every morning, interacting face-to-face with co-workers, or attending meetings in the conference room to discuss ideas. You don't have the type of social interaction one typically experiences at a 9-to-5 job. If you face an issue, you can't simply walk into your manager's office to ask for help. Because of these obstacles, strong communication is a must if you want to work remotely.

Without proper communication, it's impossible to succeed in a flexible position. Remote workers rely on the impeccable communication of their team members and leaders to complete projects, know what's going on within the company, and build positive company culture. There's no way someone with poor communication skills will succeed by telecommuting. It's how remote businesses operate successfully; without it, they're doomed to fail. 

3. Technical knowledge

It should go without saying that a remote position requires technical knowledge. Remote brands thrive off of technology and wouldn't exist without it. Even non-remote companies require substantial technical expertise because it's crucial to a business's promotion and success. So, whether it’s your job to create websites or assist the CEO, technical proficiency is a must.

It's impossible to do much of anything when working remotely if you don't have knowledge of technology and how it's used to reach brand goals. Remote companies require the right tools and software to make collaboration and communication easy.  You can't expect a remote company to hire you if you don't harness the technical skills required for most jobs in the current market.

4. Collaboration

Having the skill set to collaborate with team members on projects is vital for any company, but especially remote ones. Whether you're creating a new campaign or launching a new product, how you work with others gives recruiters an idea of what it's like to have you as an employee and co-worker. 

Because you only have the internet to communicate with your peers and complete work tasks, you must possess the skills to work with others efficiently. If you struggle with this, remote work may not be for you.

You can improve your digital collaboration skills by familiarizing yourself with popular tools and software used to join remote employees together, including the following:

  • Slack: Chat software

  • Time Doctor: Time management tool

  • Zoom: Video conferencing tool

  • Asana: Collaboration and project management tool

  • Google Drive: Collaboration tool

If you acquaint yourself with these applications before applying for remote positions, you can add that information to your resume and cover letters. It also adds positively to your job application, because it shows you're well versed in software that would otherwise require training, time, money and resources.

5. Balance

It's easy to get carried away and either work too much or too little. It can be challenging to find that sweet spot where you've put in enough hours doing work and staying away from it. This balance is essential for a remote employee, though, because it keeps you sane and lets you lead a stable life. 

At first, it's freeing to have the flexibility to run errands during the day and work during whatever hours you feel like. However, if you aren't careful, you'll soon start to feel like life is nothing but work, which could be detrimental to your emotional and mental wellbeing.

If it's difficult for you to separate work life from home life, this could be harmful to you as a remote worker. It's necessary to differentiate between the time you should work and the time you should relax and take your mind off your to-do list. Working from home can improve your work-life balance, but if you don't have the discipline or setup to follow through, you won't feel the benefits.

The thought of a remote job may be enticing, but people need to realize that those working in these jobs require specific skill sets to thrive in this type of work. More people are choosing this setup and abandoning their local jobs altogether because of its benefits. Staying realistic about what remote work entails will ensure that you're prepared for your next remote position and that you succeed while there.

Chris Christoff
Chris Christoff
See Chris Christoff's Profile
Co-Founder of MonsterInsights, the leading WordPress plugin for Google Analytics.
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