There has been a rise in remote working because of the ongoing pandemic. While many offices have started to open up, partially or fully, there are some offices which continue to function WFH. Everything is unpredictable, everyone must be prepared to change their working habits; ‘new normal’ is the new buzzword. But one thing is clear: remote working has gained more importance than ever before, and it is here to stay.
Let us take a look at some soft skills necessary to be an efficient remote worker. While these aren’t new skills, their importance has grown manifold over the past few months. Whether you are a hiring manager tasked with recruiting a remote worker, or an employee wondering how you can be a good remote worker, these qualities are something to look for and develop.
Self-Motivated and Self-Disciplined:
The most important skill when it comes to remote working. In an office environment one is under direct or indirect supervision. When it comes to remote working, that supervision is more or less absent. It becomes the job of the employee to get work done, by themselves. Sometimes, one may even need to set self-imposed deadlines and targets.
The freedom comes with a responsibility of being self-disciplined. The motivation has to come from within while working remotely.
This brings us to the next point.
With the freedom to self-impose deadlines and targets comes the responsibility to stay organised.
An employee must have that organised nature to make the necessary to-do or not-do-lists, to prioritise tasks. This organisation should also be used to recognise at what hours of the day they work the best and at which hours they tend to slack.
Being organised is thus an important skill necessary to sift through the barrage of emails and calls that populate everyone’s minds these days. This takes us to the next point.
An in-office employee has the privilege of being there. They can simply knock and enter the room and communicate face to face. A remote worker might be able to communicate face to face through a video call, but they first need to be able to use a video calling app optimally, making use of the extensive features offered.
One needs to be an ideal sender and receiver (more about this later), and that goes hand in hand with the ability to use the tools of communication to their full purpose.
Being tech-savvy is now a necessary soft skill which hiring managers must look for in an employee, and one which employees must constantly upgrade.
The Balancing Act:
A remote worker often has to work independently in the sense that they don’t have the privilege to ask or clarify what might be considered as minor doubts or hiccups; an in-office employee has the freedom to simply ask around.
The ability to make important decisions independently, the ability to consult the right sources at the right time, the ability to decide which questions need a consultation in the first place are some necessary skills associated with independence which a hiring manager should look for and a remote-working employee should build on.
But this is where it gets tricky. Read on.
A remote worker must be independent but also a good team player. A remote worker, in addition to their own team, may have to deal with multiple departments and teams at certain points. This where all the communication and organisation skills come into play. Co-ordinating projects, brainstorming ideas, managing and delegating tasks remotely not only require great communication and organisation skills but also require one to be a good team player. Talk about balance! There is one more aspect which needs some balancing. Read on.
An in-office employee may have only moderately well communication skills. Non-verbal cues, facial expressions and body language do the rest. But again, a remote worker doesn’t have that privilege of being there.
It thus becomes necessary that they know how to use their words and tone of voice exceptionally well. There will be a back and forth of calls of all kinds (video and audio), emails and messages. One must have the ability to not only frame all that communication in a clear, concise and coherent manner but also have receptive skills where they read the intended message from the sender correctly. This is what we mean when we say one must be an ideal receiver and an ideal sender. This is where the balance comes in.
Something to keep in mind is that although WFH demands great communication skills, some of us may not be too comfortable with the virtual world. It then becomes necessary to be ready to unhesitatingly ask for help. Consulting people who are more tech-savvy if one feels stuck, consulting seniors before drafting important communication with clients and being open to learning new things are some necessary steps to take. Isn’t this willingness to ask questions unhesitatingly also a part of being communicative?
As we must have realised, remote working is a lot about stepping out of the comfort zone on many levels. We have come to realise the role of flexibility and adaptability as soft skills. But with these, being self-disciplined and well-organised, being communicative and tech-savvy, being a good team player with an independent mindset are some more necessary soft skills we need to have conversations about.