The shift towards remote working has been one of the most conspicuous HR trends of 2020. Just as we began to relax due to a steady fall in Covid-19 cases, the coronavirus came back to hit us with a second wave, plunging many nations back into partial lockdowns just as the economy was reopening.
With such a dismal situation, many industry forecasters believe a significant percentage of work will continue to be performed remotely in the years ahead, even after the coronavirus threat is finally contained. As such, it is important to know which soft skills are critical for effective and efficient remote work in this ‘new normal’.
Adaptability and resiliency
“The key to staying grounded while adjusting to remote work is to look for opportunity whenever you instinctively fall into a scarcity mindset. It’s important to remember that a remote transition is not a binary switch—it’s a journey of iteration. Be open to rolling with the waves, as each day is a chance to learn,” said Darren Murph, head of remote at all-remote technology company GitLab in San Francisco.
Remote workers are expected to be prepared to adapt to unexpected situations, such as IT issues and logistical problems. They will need to think a few steps ahead and be prepared to resolve these issues. If not, then at least know who to contact to resolve them, while always having a backup plan in mind.
Discipline and self-motivation are necessary for remote work. Remote employees need to be proactive and take initiative without being constantly monitored by managers.
When working from home, there will always be distractions. Maintaining focus by blocking out visual and audible distractions is key to efficient remote working. “Embrace the fact that there will be interruptions and don’t dwell on an interruption when it happens,” says Ashira Prossack, a performance leadership coach and speaker based in Philadelphia. She adds that it can be helpful to look into apps that boost productivity and track time.
Remote work requires excellent communication; especially when discussions with colleagues are few and far between. Familiarity with a variety of virtual communication tools like instant messaging and videoconferencing apps is helpful. When remote working, much of the communication between colleagues will be done in writing.
As such, it is recommended that managers ask their direct subordinates how they prefer to be communicated with, as well as how often. Higher ups will need to have a more empathetic view on things when communicating with remote workers, especially when they are stuck at home for long periods of time.
Collaboration is easier when employees sit next to their teammates. Once physically disconnected, it’s important for team members to stay connected with routine check-ins.
Always remember that working remotely does not mean working alone. It is still a team effort despite being separated by distance. Make use of tools like project management software, shared documents and folders, and dedicated Slack channels where people can easily chat with each other and find information.
Murph also suggests that having someone in charge of formalising informal communication can do wonders for remote teams. “Be articulate about where collaboration occurs and ensure that outputs are documented. This enables asynchronous collaboration and creates a knowledge trail that benefits those who join a project midstream,” he says.