Remote work is ubiquitous. Many professionals have ditched their 9-to-5 workdays in the office for the flexibility of working from home – or anywhere with an internet connection. With tech advances and more businesses recognizing the benefits of a remote workforce, fewer professionals are confined to cubicles.
But remote work’s freedom and flexibility are not without challenges. Specific skills can ensure remote work success and help you thrive in a nontraditional work environment. The good news is that it’s possible to cultivate the necessary skills for remote work success.
Remote work’s popularity continues to rise. According to the Owl Labs State of Remote Work Report, 74 percent of employees are happier when working from home. And, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work, 98 percent of professionals say they’d like to work remotely – at least part time – for the rest of their careers.
However, remote work isn’t a natural fit for everyone. Consider the following five skills necessary for remote work success. You may recognize them in yourself, but if you don’t, now is the time to cultivate them.
When you work from home, co-workers and bosses aren’t around to remind you to stay on task and meet deadlines, but you still must meet employee performance goals and metrics. Companies with remote teams seek independent workers who can manage their time responsibly and schedule projects efficiently.
Time management – at work and in your personal life – takes mental preparation. As a remote worker, you must complete work according to set deadlines and attend online meetings on time and prepared. If you appear distracted and disorganized, your reputation and work will suffer.
Remote work isn’t a fit for people who are consistently late and disorganized. However, time management is a skill that any dedicated professional can cultivate. Tech tools and time-management tips and tactics can help:
Remote work is a completely different environment from office work. There’s no commute, face-to-face co-worker interactions and in-person impromptu meetings to discuss ideas. Robust, clear communication is critical for remote teams.
The onus is often on the remote worker to initiate communication and speak up when there’s a problem. Poor communication skills are a recipe for disaster, including missed deadlines, misunderstandings and a toxic company culture.
The good news is that remote workers and their companies can enhance communication skills and channels. Consider the following suggestions:
You’ll need some level of tech knowledge to succeed in a remote position. Remote brands thrive on technology and wouldn’t exist without it. Even non-remote companies require substantial technical expertise – making every company a tech company these days. So, whether it’s your job to create websites or assist the CEO, technical proficiency is a must.
Remote workers must understand the tech their companies use and how it helps reach brand goals. In addition to business software and communication and collaboration tools, proprietary portals and systems must be learned and understood.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a born techie to cultivate tech skills. And tech skills are transferable, helping improve your hiring chances as you navigate your career path.
Here are some tips:
Collaboration skills are a must in every company. Workplace teamwork is always essential. However, having the skill set to collaborate with team members remotely is critical when telecommuting. Whether creating a new campaign or launching a new product, how well you work with others can spell the difference between remote work success and being out of a job.
Remote workers rely on the internet to collaborate with their teams. This means actively listening, delegating and communicating via digital channels. Collaboration also involves completing your share of the work on time and sharing credit and responsibility.
To improve your collaboration skills, become intimately familiar with your company’s collaboration tech tools. (Note that there’s some overlap with communication and collaboration tools.)
Popular tools that help employee teamwork and collaboration include the following:
Add your familiarity and proficiency with collaboration tools to your resume and cover letters. HR managers will note these skills as they go through the remote employee hiring process, and you’ll stand out.
Some people struggle with working too much; with work always readily available at home, overworking can be a problem. Conversely, remote work’s inherent distractions – pets, chores, kids – can mean not getting in enough hours.
Successful remote employees find the sweet spot, putting in sufficient hours while maintaining a positive work-life balance. It can take some time and discipline to achieve the right balance of working hard and enjoying the freedom and flexibility of working from home. However, with practice, you can develop positive remote work habits that boost your career while allowing you to enjoy your life.
Remote work brings significant benefits. Remote workers are often more engaged and productive. They avoid commutes and enjoy the flexibility of managing their lives. However, remote work has some significant downsides.
Here are some of the biggest challenges of remote work and how to overcome them.
According to the Buffer report cited earlier, 33 percent of remote workers say being home too much is an issue, and 21 percent say it’s their biggest struggle. There’s no need to commute, so if your job doesn’t entail seeing clients, you’re at home most of the time. This can cause boredom and feelings of stagnation.
Solution: Exercise your time management skills to overcome this challenge. Take the time you would otherwise commute to work and walk in your neighborhood or a nearby park. Seeing and interacting with others will help you feel more social, give you energy, and boost your mood and overall mental health.
Experiment with working at a coffee shop or other location sometimes. However, ensure your company employs secure remote access best practices to prevent unauthorized access to the business’s programs and data when you’re using public Wi-Fi.
Working from home can be inherently lonely. The Buffer report revealed that 23 percent of remote workers struggle with loneliness, with 15 percent saying it’s their biggest challenge with remote work. Offices have easy access to co-workers, lunch opportunities and even close workplace friendships. While you still communicate with colleagues while working remotely, email and video communication lack the warmth of face-to-face communication.
Solution: Practice your work-life balancing skills by reaching out to co-workers to chat about non-work topics. This can help you form friendships and closer relationships. If you live near co-workers, you can even plan to get together for coffee or lunch.
Be diligent about maintaining relationships with non-work friends and family, and make time to connect with them regularly. It can also help to get a pet – especially a dog – which will force you to get out of the house to walk.
Working at home when your kids are there can be challenging. To work around your kids without losing your mind, carefully schedule your video meetings for when you’re sure you won’t be interrupted, and reach out to family, friends and professionals for help.
With the blurred lines between work and personal time, it can be difficult to draw boundaries and know when to set work aside. According to the Buffer report, 22 percent of workers say this is an issue, with 11 percent calling it their biggest challenge.
Solution: This is where time management skills come into play. Schedule personal tasks before or after work hours to force yourself to shift gears. During your designated personal time, silence work notifications so you won’t be tempted to check your email or work collaboration tool. When on vacation or during the weekends, leave your tablet and laptop at home.
Many companies with remote workers have employees living in different time zones. Varying time zones can be challenging because you must shift your schedule to interact with colleagues who are typically sleeping during your work hours.
In addition to lost sleep, working across different time zones can cause communication lags because the person you message may have to respond much later.
Solution: To meet the time zone challenge, utilize your communication and technical skills. Limit synchronous communication with people in other time zones to short periods while working on projects that require efficient communication. When the pressure is off, communicate with geographically remote colleagues asynchronously via email or messaging.
Chris Christoff contributed to this article.