7 Important People Skills for Working Remotely
Make no mistake about it—the pandemic has been downright destructive in a myriad of ways, many of which are work-related.
But one silver lining to the COVID cumulonimbus cloud: suddenly, a whole lot of us have finally achieved our dreams of remote work, or are well on our way to doing so.
Although introverts might rejoice at no longer having to share a bullpen-style office, transitioning to a remote work life does come with a learning curve… and it does require some specific skills that may need brushing-up on.
And as much as remote work may look more solitary than working in an office, communication is still key—and good communication takes practice.
Here are some important people skills that’ll help you thrive in a remote work environment. Plus, we’ve added some suggestions from Twitter in response to our #MoneyMonday sweepstakes question, “What’s an important people skill for working remotely?”
When you’re working from home, nobody’s looking over your shoulder to ensure you’re getting your work done. If you’re used to being managed in person, this can be a little overwhelming to start, especially with all the distractions available at home.
And although this is a people skill—in that it will determine how well you’re able to meet deadlines and effectively collaborate (more on that in just a minute)—it’s also definitely about personal skills like time management, too.
Fortunately, there are some tangible tactics that can make getting organized and motivated easier and less painful. For example, many people find it easier to focus when they’ve created a dedicated workspace in their home, which is for work only, as opposed to just flopping on the couch with your laptop—as tempting as that may sound.
Being intentional with time can also take a little bit of practice, but there are some secret weapons to employ here, too. The Pomodoro technique, for instance, invites workers to give their undivided attention to tasks for a measured and doable amount of time—25 minutes—before taking a short break. Then, every four “Pomodoros,” you take a longer break to help balance, recharge, and maintain momentum. (Apps and browser extensions are available to help seamlessly weave this technique into your work life.)
“My new skill is how to effectively manage my time at home. When in the office, I make efficient use of my time, but home is primarily a place of leisure and rest. Now that home is workplace, leisure, and cooking experimental station, I have a strict home regiment.” – @Constantine425
2. Openness to collaboration
Working from home doesn’t mean you’re working alone!
Depending on your specific role, collaboration is likely still a key factor for getting the job done. In fact, many hiring managers and leadership figures say collaboration is one of the most important factors for success.
In a remote work scenario, collaboration may look more like messaging in a Slack channel or showing up for a Zoom meeting, but it’s still a critical people skill to hone and nurture. Bounce ideas off colleagues or ask management if there are ways you might be able to team up to produce a stronger product—and when people ask for your input, speak up!
“I have learned to look directly into the phone and speak in an even tone during meetings so clients know I am sincere.” – @debsails
3. Writing prowess
Writing might not sound like a people skill… but in a remote work scenario, chances are a lot of your communication is going to be written. Popular workplace communications tools like Slack are often used to help teams talk from a distance, and much of that talking is done in the form of text messaging.
You may also be in email chains with managers, editors, and teammates, or even responsible for writing copy as part of your actual job. Either way, in a remote world, words are part of what bind us together, so sharpening the metaphorical pencil can’t hurt.
Of course, writing isn’t easy—even most professional writers would say so. But as with many other skills, one of the best ways to improve your writing is to practice. Sitting down with a blank Google doc is a whole lot cheaper and more accessible than taking an ecourse or night class (which are also good options). Fortunately, some of this might happen naturally if you’re suddenly Slacking each day as part of your work life!
“You have to make sure you’re coming across the right way, use a good tone so people don’t think you’re getting an attitude or smart or soothing of that sort.” – @KColeman072104
Anyone who’s worked remotely for even a short amount of time can tell you, there’s a lot of communication involved. When constantly bombarded with emails, Slack notifications, Zoom meeting invites and more, it can be easy to just tune out… especially when there’s a lot of work to be done in the meantime.
But actively listening is the only way to ensure lines of communication stay open at a distance, and intentionally practicing attentiveness can be challenging even under the best of circumstances.
Sharpening personal communication skills is important, but we need to keep our ears open, too! The New York Times offers several helpful tactics for improving your listening skills, such as clearing your mind of distractions, asking open-ended questions, and engaging your sense of empathy.
“Something I’ve learned from having to work remotely during COVID is to be a better listener. It is especially important now on video calls when there can be a delay, you don’t want to end up talking over someone else.” – @Pail_Banker
Whether it’s in a high-rise office or a home office, work can be frustrating at times. But practicing patience is important, both for communication among teammates and customer-facing interactions. That’s doubly true in a remote work situation, when an employee might be receiving multiple messages about the same topic on a variety of platforms, or contending with an annoying lag in a video conference.
Learning patience can be tough, but experts say it can be practiced. For example, regularly making yourself wait for small pleasures (like taking a minute before diving into that milkshake) can increase your patience over time, and taking deep breaths can help you slow down and maintain your composure in challenging moments.
“Having patience and waiting for someone else to finish speaking before you start talking is paramount when having remote meetings.” – @ReganRanch1
6. Cross-cultural literacy
Remote work makes the world smaller. Since we’re not tied to specific geographical places, we may find ourselves working with people from around the country or even the globe. And that means we may also be working with people who have a very different paradigm from our own, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and tensions.
Learning more about another person’s culture and traditions can help bridge the communications gaps that can occur under these circumstances. Maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude and simply being kind can go a long way toward overcoming differences.
“Managing expectations and emotional intelligence has been key.” – @MKolodiej
It may sound simple—but yes, smiling and being personable can go a long way, even (or especially!) in a remote work scenario.
Along with helping you get along with your teammates better on the job, paying attention to the way you’re presenting yourself can help you make the connections that can land you a job in the first place. As SoFi Career Expert Ashley Stahl puts it, “When you are networking, ultimately what people are asking themselves is, Can I work with this person?”
People want to see the shining light that you are—so don’t hide it!
“To be more understanding and patient with people, you never know what someone else is going through especially this year. Working from home is sometimes more difficult and everyone needs a little patience somedays.” – @greatestjoy
Looking for More Help Building Your People Skills?
Not knowing what’s going to happen next is the new normal—but no matter how the world evolves, people skills will always be in high demand. Sharpening and maintaining those communicative and interpersonal abilities can help you achieve the career, and life, you’re looking for.
Did you know that all SoFi members get access to career coaching as a complimentary benefit to their membership? Our team of professional coaches offer actionable, customized plans for career transitions and job search guidance, just for starters—and it’s all at no extra cost.
Want to see how a SoFi Career Coach could help you achieve your goals? Learn more about this complimentary service for SoFi members.
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