What Remote Work Skills Do Employers Want?
Remote jobs can be highly demanding. Not only do you have to do the job competently, but you also have to deal with all the distractions of being at home or wherever else you work. If you don’t have the skills to deal with these challenges, you won’t do well. Employers know that. So what remote work skills do employers want, and how can you demonstrate them?
Demonstrating great remote work skills is one of the keys to landing a legitimate work at home job. The more of these you can demonstrate to a potential employer, the better your chances will be.
All The Regular Skills Of The Job
The skills required of the job itself are the same as if you work in the office. If you don’t have what it takes to do the job in an office with all your coworkers, you certainly don’t have what it takes to work remotely.
Employers may offer training for some of these skills. Sometimes this training will take place in the office, which is one of the reasons why it can matter where you live.
Regardless of how much training they provide, there will be some expectations for skills you already have. Customer service jobs, for example, will expect you to have a good phone voice and some experience dealing with customers. A software developer position will require you to know the right programming language.
If you don’t have at least most of the skills listed in the job description, you probably shouldn’t apply for the remote position. As with any other job, it’s something of a wishlist from the employer, but you must be sufficiently qualified for the position that the employer is comfortable with the things you will need to learn.
These skills should be clearly mentioned in your resume, and you should be ready to discuss them in an interview. A potential employer may require that you demonstrate a particular skill as well.
You don’t have to be in a high tech job from home to need some solid technology skills. Your employer will not be willing to teach you the basics of how to use your computer, even in an entry level job. They will expect that you can use your computer competently.
This may include some basic troubleshooting. Your employer will not hold your hand through simple problems. You may have to notify them if a problem limits your ability to work for a time, but if the problem is on your end, you should have some notion of what to do, even if all you can do is call your ISP.
If a potential employer asks about your technical skills, talk about times you have handled a problem with your computer. It doesn’t have to be something big – most people have not taken their computer apart to fix a problem – but you should show that you know what to do about a computer crash, a virus or other common computer problems.
Your computer should be up to date, of course, with appropriate security software. You should also have a high speed internet connection. Some employers may require that you have a wired connection rather than wifi for security reasons.
If your interview is via Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your computer is completely set up for a video chat. Test it with a friend or family member who can do a practice chat with you. You don’t want to look bad by finding out that your video camera or microphone isn’t working right. Prepare beforehand so you can troubleshoot any technical difficulties before the interview.
Keeping in communication with your employer and coworkers is one of the most important remote work skills. Just how important depends on the kind of work you’re doing.
If you’re a transcriptionist, for example, much of your communication will have to do with feedback from QA, updating your schedule, and attending required trainings.
If you’re working as a software developer, on the other hand, you may be in near constant communication. This is why many remote teams use Slack and other programs to keep in communication. It’s necessary. You need to know immediately when something is changed.
In all cases, you will need the ability to communicate clearly through email and/or chat. If you cannot express yourself clearly this way, you will have a lot of trouble working remotely.
The biggest challenge you may face with remote communication is that it’s asynchronous. It’s not like when you’re talking face to face or on the phone. When something is emailed or posted to Slack or a group chat, the rest of the group may not respond right away.
This makes it important to know if there are certain times of the day when you are expected to check in on Slack or elsewhere. You don’t want to miss out on vital information about the project you’re working on. Attending online meetings and checking in regularly is vital.
Employers may consider what they can see of your communications skills throughout the interview process, as well as consider the skills you’ve used in other jobs. If you’re awkward about talking to a potential employer on the phone, they will probably have doubts about your ability to talk to customers that same way.
Time Management Skills
Time management can be especially difficult for remote employees. It’s far too easy to start a little late when you don’t have to make it to the office. It’s also easy to let distractions decrease your productivity.
If you have good time management skills, you can be even more productive as a remote employee than you would be at the office. Employers know this and expect it.
There are a variety of time management techniques you can use. The right technique is the one that works for you and your job. Here are some to consider:
Whichever time management technique you use, make sure that you get the most important things done during your workday. Showing an understanding of priorities is a big part of using your time wisely.
One big mistake people make is trying to multitask. As a general rule, it doesn’t work. Multitasking can make you less productive.
Instead, focus on one thing at a time whenever possible. Get that thing done before you move onto something else.
Critical Thinking Skills
As a remote worker, you will need to come up with solutions to problems on your own. This makes critical thinking skills vital.
There may be times when you have to get help from a coworker or supervisor, but you need to know when it’s okay to get help versus handle things on your own. No one will be happy to hear from you about problems you should have handled quietly on your own. They’ll be even less happy if you try to handle something on your own that you should have gotten help with.
It can take time to learn the difference.
You can show critical thinking skills in an interview by figuring out what kind of critical thinking the employer wants to see. If you’re expected to analyze data, bring up an example of how you do that.
Any time you’ve solved a problem at a different job can be an example of critical thinking. The best examples to use in an interview are the ones most closely related to what the new job wants from you.
An interviewer may also ask you to demonstrate critical thinking skills by solving a hypothetical problem. Most will be more interested in how you came up with a solution rather than in seeing you come up with a particular one. Be ready to explain how you solve such problems.
Keeping things organized is key to successful remote work. You don’t want your work files all mixed in with your personal stuff, and you certainly don’t want to accidentally share personal things with your boss or coworkers.
With many remote jobs, a lot of being organized comes down to how you keep things on your computer or the company server. There are a lot of options the company may use.
If you have experience with these tools, they may be worth mentioning as a part of how you kept a project organized. Employers need to know if you have familiarity with the tools they prefer to keep employees organized and in contact.
A remote employee has to be self motivated. You don’t have a supervisor who can come and look over your shoulder while you work. Your employer may or may not notice right away if you’re working as much as you should.
You know who should notice?
As a remote worker, you have to motivate yourself to get the job done, no matter the distractions around you. If you have a strict schedule, you need to stick to it. If the only thing that matters is that you get the job done on time, you get the job done on time.
To show a potential employer that you’re self motivated, you need to give examples.
Start with the parts of the job that interest you. You could express your enthusiasm for the products the company offers, for example. You can also discuss any experience you already have in the industry and how that will help you in the job.
If you have been in the industry for a while, discuss any special training you’ve had, conferences you’ve been to, and so forth. This shows that you’re motivated to learn more about the industry and keep up to date on what’s happening in it.
Training you’ve acquired on your own rather than waiting for an employer to provide it can show a lot of self motivation. If you can talk about a skill you learned because you realized that you needed it, do so.
If you have experience working remotely, you can use this to show self motivation as well. Remote employers often prefer people who have worked remotely before and are familiar with the challenges.
Remote workers may have to deal with a lot of changing situations. It can be greatly different from working in an office where everyone works more or less the same hours, and if you need to talk to someone, you can go find them.
For one thing, your coworkers may be spread out around the world. You may not all speak the same language. Sometimes things will go wrong for you that aren’t affecting your coworkers, and vice versa. Other times you may have to help bring a new coworker up to speed.
You must be able to deal with all these situations.
If your internet goes down, for example, you should know how to alert your employer to the problem, set things in motion to get it fixed, and if it will be down a significant time, know what you can do so that you will still be productive.
Often enough, this means having a Plan B in place.
An alternative place to work, for example, will help you if your internet is out. Spending the day in a coworking space can give you internet access when your home internet will be out for hours.
Language barriers can be a significant problem, but employers may have something in place to help. There may be a language in common as a job requirement, for example. There may still be difficulties due to misunderstandings, and you should be prepared to deal with such issues as best you may.
A good remote worker knows how to focus despite all the distractions of being remote. Just as you have to keep your socialization with coworkers to a reasonable level when you work in an office with them, you need to keep focus on your work when you’re remote.
There will be distractions, even if you’re alone. At the very least, there will be the temptation to surf the internet, binge watch a favorite show or otherwise goof around.
It can help to know what time of day you’re most capable of being focused. This may be the time that you think most clearly, or when you can get everyone else out of the house so that they don’t distract you. Planning your work at home schedule around this is a huge help.
When possible, do your most important work when you can be the most focused on it. Depending on the job, this may not be possible, but do the best you can.
Remember that your focus can be improved by taking appropriate breaks. A 5-15 minute break every few hours allows your brain to relax. It also gives your eyes a chance to look somewhere other than the computer screen, which helps them relax as well.
Taking breaks may seem like time lost when you’re in crunch mode, but they can actually improve your focus and help you get done sooner. Don’t skip them.
Awareness Of Time Zones
Time zones can be a significant challenge if you’re a part of a remote team, especially if the team is distributed worldwide. If you can’t cope with time zones, you won’t impress a potential employer.
Let’s say your phone or Google Hangouts interview is at 1 p.m. EST, but you’re in Colorado. Do you know what time your interview will be at locally?
You’d better, or you’ll miss it.
When you know your team crosses time zones, you must remember to include the time zone when scheduling meetings, and taking the differences into account. A time that is convenient for you may be late night for someone else. If that’s not routine for the position, you’ll annoy a lot of people.
Obviously, if the team is worldwide, you won’t always be able to have meetings at times that are convenient for everyone. It’s quite possible that the inconvenient times may fall on you.
Be ready for the fact that some meetings will occur at a time that is best for people elsewhere in the world but not for you. In some remote jobs, this is a fact of life.
Other times, the difference will be a matter of just a few hours, but that difference is vital in scheduling. A 4 p.m. PST meeting isn’t going to make people in an EST zone very happy unless they usually work that late.
Maintaining your work-life balance can be challenging when you work at home. They have a way of inching into each other.
Kids and pets wander into your home office when you’re working. You have trouble leaving work alone when you should be focusing on your family. The quality of your work suffers.
These days even people who work in an office can have this problem, as smartphones and email make it so easy to keep in touch with home and work no matter where you are. But when you work remotely, maintaining those boundaries makes an even bigger difference because home and work are in the same place.
Having a comfortable home office with a door you can close is one of the easiest ways to keep a boundary between your home life and your professional life. Teach the rest of your family that when you’re in there, they need to let you work.
Then, when you come out of the office and are done for the day, be done. Don’t go back to work and ignore everyone. Your family needs you too.
Having good work-life boundaries keeps you fresher when you work. You aren’t so stressed from having too little time with your family.
A lot of different things go into showing professionalism when you work remotely. How you’re dressed won’t matter to anyone but you unless you do a video chat. Instead, you show professionalism in other ways.
A part of this is simply getting your work done on time and getting the job done right. No one will consider you a professional if everyone else has to constantly correct your mistakes.
It’s also more professional if you do a good job of keeping your home life and work life separated. While many people understand if your children come into your office while you’re working, it won’t look good if that happens every time you’re talking to someone on the phone or on Skype.
Showing professionalism during an interview is vital. If there’s one time you need to show that you can keep your office free from the distractions of being at home, this is it. A child or your spouse coming over to interrupt your interview tells the potential employer that you will have a lot of distractions while you work, and so might not be as productive as another employee.
You don’t want that.
If you’re being interviewed on video using software such as Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your home office is clean. You don’t want a mess behind you to give a potential employer a poor impression of you.
If you don’t have a home office, of course, make sure that whatever part of your home you’re using during the interview is neat and clean.
Keep Building Your Remote Work Skills
No matter how happy you are with your remote work skills, there’s always something you can improve.
Some things will be obvious, such as the need to keep up in your field. No employer will be happy if you let the skills you need for the job go out of date.
Other things you may have to recognize for yourself. If you find that you aren’t as focused as you should be when you’re working, that’s an issue you need to handle. Same for if you realize that you’re getting disorganized in your work.
Sometimes this is as simple as taking a class. Other times you will need to find a way to improve a problem on your own. There are a lot of books on self motivation and such that may help.