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Top Skills Needed To Work From Home Successfully

Updated: May 16



It's easy to see why working from home is popular when you think about improving your work-life balance, saving money on travel, and being in control of your home office. Being in control gives remote workers a lot of benefits, but there are some challenges too.

 

To successfully work from home long-term, remote workers need to invest in improving their time management, communication, problem-solving, and tech skills, as well as working on their self-motivation and openness to change. That might sound like a lot, but let's take a look at why each skill is important and how to improve those skills successfully.


Time Management Skills


Time management skills are important in any workplace but they're especially important when working remotely. Our homes are filled with distractions and private responsibilities that compete with our work. There are no colleagues walking to the meeting room to remind us of our 11 am team meeting, no supervisor checking we are at our desks, and no guarantee that everyone in our team is even in the same time zone as us. On top of all that, it's easy to do the laundry in our "break times", leaving us without any relaxation time.

 

Let's take a look at some recommendations to help you improve your time management:

 

Use a Digital Calendar


Digital calendars like Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar help you organize your appointments, tasks, contacts, emails, and even time zones for international teams. You easily set task reminders and your availability can be shared in a few clicks. Managing a paper planner is inflexible, messy, and much slower.

 

Create a Schedule and Stick to it


Make a schedule that fits your work and private life and do your best to stick to it. Then you can plan your hours, appointments, and responsibilities as well as tracking your progress more effectively.

 

Use Time Blocking


Work on one task at a time in blocks of an hour or more. Switching between tasks takes extra time because our brains need to change "mode". Over a day this switching time will add up, and can cause you to make mistakes.

 

Set Specific and Achievable Goals


Know where you need to be and then plan how to get there. Make sure your goals are possible, and that you give yourself enough time to achieve them.

 

Break Goals Down Into Smaller Tasks


Large long-term goals are overwhelming and the path there is unclear. Break your goal down into small weekly or daily tasks that are countable and achievable.

 

For a more detailed look at how to manage your time effectively, read Time Management Basics

 

Communication Skills


Effective communication is the key to success in any business, but it's the most important part of working successfully from home. Important knowledge, tips, and instructions get lost when we are far away and forget to check in. Good communication can help you problem-solve more effectively, but excellent communication can stop a problem from ever happening. For a company with employees in different locations, responsible and active communication is what makes the difference between a team and a group of strangers at the same company.

 

Let's take a look at some examples of how good and bad communication can affect teamwork:

Teamwork With Good Communication

Teamwork With Bad Communication

  • Team members are always up to date on tasks.

  • Team members understand their responsibilities.

  • Problems are avoided or solved quickly and effectively.

  • Projects are ahead and on target.

  • Policy changes are understood and implemented quickly.

  • Team members share tasks and responsibilities.

  • Team members don't know what the rest of the team are doing.

  • Problems happen often and are difficult to solve.

  • Projects are slow to complete and go off track.

  • Policy changes are not implemented fully or correctly.

  • Some work is missed and other work is done more than once.

  • Some team members are overworked and others have too little to do.

Strong communication skills can help you build healthy long-term working relationships with your team and others in your network. The trust that you build in your network can help you succeed in your everyday life and can make a big difference to your long-term career plans.

 

Tips for Effective Communication for Remote Workers


Here are some tips to help you use your communication skills well when working from home:


  • Keep people informed - update your team on problems, progress, and solutions when you share projects.  


  • Schedule regular catch-ups - give yourself and your team opportunities to speak face-to-face in video calls regularly.  


  • Ask for what you need - ask for any information, support, meetings, or changes that you need. People can't see that you need things when you are working from home.  


  • Offer what you can - let your team know if you can help, take on more responsibility, offer support, give helpful information, or update a process.  


  • Speak - writing messages to your team is quick and easy but we need body language and facial expressions to properly keep teams working together well.  


  • Listen actively - make time to listen to your colleagues and read their messages actively with interest. This avoids misunderstandings and improves relationships.  


  • Ask for feedback - your team might not communicate as openly as you do. So, don't wait for feedback, advice, information, or support. Ask for it!


Communication skills are so important to helping you succeed, we have 3 more articles about them! Try reading these to help you start improving your spoken and written communication skills:


IT Skills


Working from home means you need to manage the new remote working software you might need for video meetings, communicating with your team, and planning and storing your work. Being confident with your IT skills means you feel comfortable troubleshooting software problems, and you can use your everyday software without problems. Being unsure how to start using software, or spending hours fixing minor software problems will really slow down your productivity.


Here are some recommendations to help you stay confident and skilled at using IT:


  • Learn new software as soon as it is introduced to your workplace.

  • Try new things and look around in software menus before you look for, or ask for, help.

  • Develop basic problem-solving skills for IT.

  • Try fixing small software problems yourself before looking for support.


If you have tried everything you can think of and IT is still slowing you down, it's time to improve your IT skills. Here are some ideas to help you update your IT skills and learn any new software you might need to use:


  • Look for tutorial videos on YouTube.

  • Search the software developer's website for a tutorial (for example: MS Outlook Training).

  • Take a training course on Udemy or Skillshare.

  • Google search for support for software problems using "How do I <task> on <software name>?", or "How do I fix <problem> on <software name>?"

  • Press F1, open the "Help" menu, or click on one of these symbols to look for more information:






Always try to fix your software problem yourself first. This builds confidence and experience in IT troubleshooting over time, and exploring helps you learn what options are available in the software. You can do it!

 

Problem-Solving Skills


A positive and methodical way of actively solving problems is extremely useful when working from home. In a workplace where we are mostly alone and have to motivate ourselves to be productive, a positive way of working through problems will help you day after day.

 

Follow the simple IRS-BEC problem-solving steps to help you find solutions to everything from computer viruses to unexpected new expenses:


  • Identify - what isn't working in your process, and what is that part named?  

  • Research - look for information on how this problem happens and what it affects.  

  • Sketch (if relevant) - having a picture of your process can be a big part of finding where the problem is and how to fix it.  

  • Brainstorm -  write down every possible solution you can think of.  

  • Eliminate - remove any options that are too expensive, difficult to get, or have large negative consequences.  

  • Choose - choose the option with the highest level of success, least expense, and lowest chance of further problems.


Adaptability


Most everyday work processes were designed for people working on-site, so just by being remote workers we are already having to adapt. Good adaptability means you can identify change, reorganize your work life to fit, see new opportunities when they appear, and still feel motivated enough to keep producing great work.

 

The main steps in improving your adaptability are:


  • Accept change - understanding change always happens and getting involved in new processes and tasks keeps work interesting.

  • Managing stress - having healthy ways of coping with stress, and taking care of your mental health.

  • Asking for feedback - take responsibility for your own learning and check how well it's going.

  • Building a support network - have a group of people you can talk to when things get difficult, and people in your business you can share tips with to help you improve.


Read How to Become More Adaptable if you would like to make some improvements in this important remote working skill.

 

Focus


It's easy to get distracted when you work remotely, especially if you have other responsibilities at home. Being able to concentrate on your work is the key to being productive and making less mistakes, and without focus it's easy to miss deadlines and fall behind. The way you improve your focus will be unique to you, but here are some tips to help you focus:

 

Try the Pomodoro Technique


The Pomodoro technique is based on breaking your work time into smaller blocks of time (or tomatoes - pomodoro) with frequent breaks to make it easier for you to keep your focus.

 

Reduce or Remove Distractions


Remove as many distractions as you can from your home office. Use calm background music or noise-canceling earplugs to reduce noises in your workspace and, if possible, create a visual wall between you and the rest of the home.

 

Set Boundaries and Expectations

Tell the people in your home (and animals if they will listen) that when you are in your office space, you need to work without distractions. Ask your loved ones to save their conversations with you until after the working day.

 

Desktop Toys


If you think you might benefit from having something to push your desk around and play with while you think, try having a desktop toy around.

 

Wrap Up


There are a lot of important skills to develop when working from home: technical skills, problem-solving, self-motivation, adaptability, and focus. The time you invest in improving these skills could improve your productivity and confidence, and help you enjoy the new challenges that working from home brings. You could be one of many remote workers around the world who enjoy a better work-life balance.

 

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