Remote work seems to be the future of many businesses. As companies are looking at what a return to an office may look like, many are making this decision in partnership with their employees. When that time comes, weigh your options, and determine what is best for you. This blog will discuss the skills needed to work from home successfully.
Working remotely can offer you the freedom to live and work wherever you want. It’s the opportunity to create your own success, unhindered by company politics or micro-managing bosses. If you’re looking for a career change or simply seeking an alternative to endless commutes, working remotely could be the perfect solution.
While remote work isn’t for everyone, for the right employees it can be a seamless, effective arrangement. If you’re a manager or employee looking to transition to working remotely, or you are looking to update your resume for a work from home position, here are some of the top skills remote workers need to succeed as well as some of the most common obstacles that you’ll need to overcome in order to be successful.
Time Management Skills
When you’re confined to working at home, suddenly your household chores become hard to escape from. You begin to think that it can’t cause much harm if you put a load of laundry in, vacuum, or do the dishes, but it can. You begin to think that you won’t be distracted if you put on a show you’ve been dying to watch, but now you are five episodes in and haven’t responded to that email you wanted to hours ago. And if you have children, roommates, or a significant other is also at home with you, it’s easy to get distracted by their impromptu interruptions or your child asking for homework help or a midday snack.
Your workday no longer looks the same as if you were in the office. You can sleep in, leaving only five minutes to move from the bed to the couch to log online. You don’t move from the couch, neglecting to shower or change out of your pajamas, until you need to be visible on a Zoom. Your days of waking up a couple of hours before you need to be at the office to shower and commute in is a distant memory. Throughout the day, time management becomes challenging and suddenly it’s 4:00 pm and you have an hour left to tackle your to-do list.
It’s up to you to work out a way to organize your day into manageable chunks and to keep yourself on track. I have found that, for most people, routines are the easiest way to do this, and build in time for these fixed daily activities lets you fit everything else in around them. Time blocking is one such way to manage your time while avoiding endless distractions.
Maintain the balance between work and play by making sure you make time to do all that must be done so that your workload doesn’t pile up. Having a plan in place, along with setting realistic goals for yourself will keep your work-life running smoothly.
Our home Wi-Fi connections aren’t as powerful or secure as our office’s Wi-Fi. This is especially true if multiple people in your home are using the same Wi-Fi network all day long. You also run the risk of outages and no longer have an on-site team to get things back up and running quickly. This can turn your workday upside down so plan by making sure everything is fully charged, that you have access to a hot spot and that you have backup devices, especially if bad weather is on the horizon!
Effective Communication Skills and the Right Tools
It’s hard to communicate virtually. You’re unable to read body language or tone, so miscommunication happens often. Decisions are now made on the fly and you no longer have the chance to overhear conversations about projects that can keep you in the loop or provide insight into your current work.
Knowledge of the most popular business collaboration and communication tools used by startups and remote teams is important. Without an in-depth understanding of different collaboration tools, you’ll be at a disadvantage when it comes to effective communication with your employer, employees, or team.
Pay attention to what features are most commonly used, and what their weaknesses may be. A key advantage of remote work is being able to work out your own tools, instead of the company using an in-house standard. Learning how to leverage different tools effectively can save you a lot of time and headaches in the long run.
Being Comfortable with Isolation
When you work remotely, with or without distractions, you become susceptible to loneliness. In this world, you can go days without seeing another person and even introverts who may prefer this at the start will eventually miss human interaction. This can cause you to feel isolated and alone. You’ll need to start making a point to get outside, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store or a walk to combat the cabin fever you are experiencing.
You no longer have the same social interaction you once had with colleagues. It’s now more difficult to build “work” friendships, and the company events that happened previously do not feel the same. The next time you’re invited to a Zoom birthday party or trivia game, attend. Embrace your company’s attempt to build camaraderie and choose to log on to engage with your colleagues. Or, stay social by messaging your peers mid-day to check-in!
Working at home can be isolating, especially when you’re not used to it. The less social interaction, the more positive reinforcement you’re going to require from yourself. Don’t let that turn into self-loathing or self-abuse though (yes this actually happens).
Mental illnesses like social anxiety and depression are often exacerbated by loneliness, lack of activity and boredom. The more people you have to collaborate with, or the more activities you have going on outside your home, the easier it is going to be to avoid becoming lonely or isolated.
For others, working from home brings peace and solitude. Sure, the work can still be tedious, but you can take breaks on your own watch. You’ll have more time to spend with the people that you appreciate, and you’ll have more of a drive to work hard and succeed.
When you’re working from home your fridge is at your disposal and suddenly, you’re having more snacks than you previously had. You can easily forget to exercise and to take those daily walks outside to get your dose of Vitamin D. You were once part of a Fit-Bit challenge, but now you are trading in your step count for an impromptu snack time.
Maintaining healthy habits is imperative to working from home. Make sure that you stay out of the kitchen except at lunchtime and that you don’t neglect physical fitness.
The Ability to Set and Maintain Boundaries
It’s no longer a universal rule that your cell phone number is only to be called during office hours. Instead, your colleagues or boss may think you are always available to be reached. Work used to end when you would leave the office and then begin when you would arrive the next day. You were able to focus on your personal life and respond to texts promptly. Now it feels like your work never really ends when your desk and laptop are always just across the room.
Maintain those boundaries with co-workers and make sure that you also follow suit. Assign office hours and stick with them.
As a remote worker, you’re going to be on your own a lot. Waiting for your office messages, reading and responding to email, or calling colleagues to ask if there’s a bug in the software. You need to ensure you’re always one step ahead.
Time is a precious commodity and, if you don’t give yourself time to respond to incoming messages, you’ll find it tough to stay on top of new opportunities. Being able to multitask is great but being able to prioritize and focus on one thing at a time is a must, especially if you have a project going on.
Knowing what’s most important, as well as not repeating yourself is also important, particularly if you have a team working for you.
Working from home takes a particular set of skills that can’t really be learned in a classroom. You need to be flexible, not scared of change and willing to adapt your routine as necessary. I used to worry about being bored at home, but I quickly learned to make the most of it. If I wanted to spend time with my girlfriend or son, I made sure I did—and that I had a lot of fun doing it.
Working from home can be especially hard if you’re doing something tedious and can’t relax. The key is to take breaks to change up your routine as much as you can. Once in a while, pick up a paintbrush, or have some fun cleaning or organizing. Don’t force yourself to be productive but make it possible for you to take a break from your work.
While your work will speak for itself, it’s hard to not feel like you’re constantly being watched or that you need to prove yourself. We can’t help but feel judged that our boss is constantly wondering if we’re on the couch watching tv or running errands, and not working. Be purposeful in your work and it will show.
Negotiation skills are necessary for maintaining a work and home life balance. At times, you may have to negotiate with your family or roommates in order to maintain a happy household while working from home. If your significant other likes to listen to music during the day but it interrupts your focus, you may have to set listening hours or invest in some headphones. Negotiating with those around is an essential skill when you work from home.
The power of negotiation doesn’t just stop there, they are especially important for job seekers that are seeking new remote employment or employees that want to negotiate work from home opportunities. You might not like it, but it’s something most remote workers have to do, especially if they prefer to work for themselves.
Before you get too involved in negotiations, always make sure you understand what they’re offering and what it’s worth to you. Are you doing this for altruistic reasons or because you need the money? You also need to work out the logistics of your negotiation. Are they offering you the same thing as everyone else? In which case, you need to negotiate the rates and bonus that you want. At the same time, do your research on the company. If you’re going into business with this person, do you trust them enough to provide consistent work for you?
Sometimes, this can feel like a back-to-front process. Before negotiations, you need to decide how much money you’re going to work for, and what the value of your work is. Most people don’t understand how much of their time is worth to a potential employer, so be sure to set your salary expectations and limitations before you set off for an interview or a negotiation with your current employer.
The move toward remote work, or flexible work arrangements, can be a great way to attract and retain talent. Employees who don’t need a physical office space are able to work remotely from anywhere, using tools to help them stay connected and collaborating more effectively with team members.
But, for some people, the decision to work remotely will always be a tough one. If you’re not comfortable working from home, talk to your boss about your concerns. Sometimes just coming up with a work-from-home plan can help. Remember that you’re not committing to a life of sitting in your pajamas. By adapting your routine to take advantage of the freedom that remote work can offer, you can still get a lot—if not more—done than you otherwise would.