Working from home is a common topic of discussion these days, in part because of the drastic effect that COVID-19 has had on our traditional working environments. But the reality is, working from home has been steadily increasing in popularity since it started to emerge as an option in the late 2000s. In the wake of the pandemic, more than half of Americans are working from home at least part of the time. That's up significantly from 35% in 2017. And because of the many benefits of working from home (such as the stat that working from home leads to a 13% performance increase), many businesses are expected to permanently offer full-time remote work options.
But not everyone is cut out for the autonomy (and potential isolation) of working from home. So, which qualities prime a person for success when working from home? These are some of the most important characteristics an employee must have to work from home successfully:
When you're working from home, there won't be any supervisors looking over your shoulder (at least not directly; you may be the subject of remote monitoring, but for the purposes of this point, let's assume that’s not the case).
You also won't have a team of co-workers nearby to make you feel pressured to perform. If you’re going to consistently get your work done, and spend a sufficient amount of your workday doing something productive, you need to be self-disciplined. Your willpower has to be stronger than the call of distractions and urges to do other things.
This is especially important if your home is full of interesting activities, like TV, crafts, or video games you could be engaging with.
Do you know anyone who seems naturally lucky? They probably aren't; their luck is probably a byproduct of their ambitiousness. People who actively strive to achieve greatness are naturally more likely to achieve it than people who are ambivalent.
This is an especially important trait if you’re working from home; again, there won’t be many external forces imposing their will on you, and you won’t have many people to compare yourself to.
Instead, your direction and your motivation will be dependent upon your personal ambition. Ambition often leads directly to thought leadership, which can further propel your career.
3. Commitment to routines
In a traditional office environment, routines are semi-built-in. Everyone shows up at 9 am. Everyone takes lunch at 12 pm. Everyone goes home at 5 pm, and maybe there are some breaks in between. But in a home environment, you have to define your own routine for yourself. If you're inconsistent with this routine, like if you wake up at a different time each morning, you'll have difficulty achieving consistent results.
People who naturally create and stick to routines are better poised for success.
To succeed when working from home, you have to be independent. Some people thrive on socializing with others, and they aren't at their best when they’re alone.
But working from home, you'll be alone the vast majority of the time. Can you find a way to function well under these conditions?
5. Good communication
Studies suggest that people who work from home are more productive, but this finding is contingent on an important variable: communication.
When you're in a traditional office setting, you'll be able to communicate quickly and easily with other people. You can walk by their desk and ask them a quick question, and you can hash out disagreements face to face. Remotely, communication becomes much more challenging; you'll need to master your writing skills, and learn when to use which medium (and how).
That's why great communicators excel in this environment.
Good remote workers are also resourceful. When they encounter a problem, they don't immediately ask someone to help them fix it; they try to find a solution on their own.
Most of the time, they're successful, and when they encounter more difficulty, they're persistent in getting past it.
Confidence is a critical quality for success in almost any working environment, but it's especially important for people working from home. You need to be sure of your abilities, and efficient in your communications.
Otherwise, you'll quickly fall behind, and you'll find it difficult to catch up.
Again, working from home demands effective communication. If you're going to be a valuable collaborator and keep the flow of work moving, you need to be responsive. That means being able to address questions and comments quickly, whether it's via email or some other medium.
You don't need to drop everything to respond to new alerts, but you should understand that your responses can sometimes dictate the pace of work for others.
9. Tech familiarity
When you're working remotely, you'll be largely responsible for managing your own equipment. There may be an IT department on standby to help with issues, but you'll still be in control of your laptop, your Wi-Fi connection, your VPN, and all your other devices and software products.
It's extremely beneficial to be tech-savvy, so you can correct most issues on your own.
10. Tolerance for repetition
Working in a home office you created yourself, and following the same routine every day can get old for some people. That's why some of the most successful remote workers happen to have a high tolerance for repetition.
They don't constantly crave novel experiences, and if they ever get sick of working in a certain way, they can break the routine by working somewhere new (or trying a new approach).
Not all jobs are repetitious, but almost every job has at least one aspect that is tedious — and that tediousness is amplified when working from home.
No matter how strictly you plan your schedule or how accustomed you become to working from home, there will be curveballs that come your way. Your company will introduce a new project management platform that doesn’t work the same way as the old one.
You'll be required to attend a regular meeting that changes your schedule. You’ll learn that some of your habits are compromising your productivity, and some of your routines will get stale. Accordingly, one of the best tips for working from home is to remain adaptable; you have to roll with the punches and experiment with new approaches if you’re going to succeed.
People who are naturally adaptable and flexible have a higher likelihood of success.
Changing Your Traits
It’s practically impossible to change your personality through sheer force of will. So instead of trying to force yourself to adopt new characteristics or change your personality, focus on something you can change: your habits.
For example, you can’t forcibly make yourself more responsive to incoming messages—but you can set up automatic reminders to make sure you don’t forget to respond to those messages eventually. You can’t force yourself to be independent, but you can recognize when you’re in need of support and learn to reach out to people when necessary—and you can also set up systems that allow you to work better alone.
The trick, then, isn’t so much changing your traits, so much as it is learning to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Once you do this, you’ll be able to build the perfect environment for yourself to thrive when working from home—no matter how you’ve done with this setup in the past.