Whether you are a hiring manager or a remote worker looking to improve your effectiveness, we have compiled a list of the traits of highly effective "work from home" team members.
1. Communication Skills
High quality communication is key in remote work. Projects are often worked on asynchronously, and coworkers are often separated by great distances. Nobody can stroll over to a teammate’s desk to ask a question or give instructions. Therefore, communication for remote work needs special attention.
Organization: Remote communication is clumsier than in-person communication, even during video meetings, and especially over email. Messy communication results in confusion, frustration, and wasted time, so it is crucial to be organized and clear. No one wants to be talked over in a meeting, or receive a solid wall of text whose message meanders among semi-related ideas before reaching a questionable conclusion (followed by “Sent from my iPhone”). Such messages can be ineffective and often require unnecessary work from the reader. A concise string of thoughts organized logically into paragraphs that support the main idea is much more effective and reader-friendly than a hastily-banged-out email can ever hope to be.
Responsiveness: In personal life, it is usually fine to respond to messages hours after receiving them. However, when working remotely, it is important to have a greater sense of urgency. Coworker messages are often questions about how to proceed, requests for help, or instructions for a task. Especially when there are multiple time zones involved, delayed responses can cause more trouble than is immediately obvious. Responding quickly allows others to continue their own work unimpeded, and/or have peace of mind that their directions have been read and understood.
Clarification: Unfortunately, remote communication is not as rich as in-person communication. Because of this, it is harder to tell if someone is confused, has questions, or needs help. Therefore, remote workers should give extra care to keeping everyone on the same page. After talking about complex concepts, givers of communication should ask if the receivers have any questions or concerns. Receivers should be open and honest, and not afraid to ask for help or ask questions, even later in the day, week, or month. Potentially looking silly for a moment to get on the right track is well worth it. Otherwise, the final product of the receivers’ work may be unhelpful or late (which is much worse for reputations).
2. Presentation Skills
Whether it’s a formal affair involving a slideshow and leadership team, or just a routine report meeting, the ability to give a good presentation is vital for many professionals. In addition to conveying important information, it demonstrates that the presenter “knows their stuff” and is a competent, valuable member of the organization.
Preparation: The best presentations are those which see success before the meeting even starts, in the preparation stage. The presenter should begin assembling and studying their information far enough in advance that they have enough time to create a cohesive and organized presentation. If the presenter prepares and organizes their information with the audience in mind, they will be able to convey even unfamiliar and complex concepts.
Visual Aids: They should be easy to read, have high image quality, and not use any distracting colors or typefaces. The presenter should make their visual aids far enough ahead of time that they can review and proofread them before the presentation.
Practice: After the information is assembled and visual aids are finalized, it may make sense to practice the presentation. For short or routine presentations, this step can probably be skipped, but for momentous occasions, such as speeches, group orientations, and meetings with high-ranking people, the presenter should practice their presentation at least once. Practicing in an empty video meeting or while looking in a mirror allows the presenter to see themself and how well they are delivering the information.
Delivery: If the presenter was diligent in the preparation stage, they should be primed and ready when it is time to actually give the presentation. By this point, they should be so familiar with their ideas that they can worry less about remembering what to say, and focus more on how they are coming across. The presenter should be dressed and groomed appropriately (at least on the top half of their body that the camera will see). Their background should be tidy and devoid of anything distracting. If the presenter chooses to use a virtual background instead, it should not be distracting either. The camera should be at about face level. During the presentation, the presenter should maintain good posture and look into the camera, not at their screen. This may feel unnatural, but it will make them seem more personable and focused. The presenter should speak calmly and clearly, only use professional language, and try to avoid filler words (“like,” ”um,” ”uh,” etc.). At the end, the presenter should ask their audience if they have any questions.
Overcoming Work Challenges: Remote work necessitates adaptability and flexibility because when colleagues are spread apart, coordination is not quite as smooth as when everyone is in the same place. Therefore, remote workers should expect the occasional misunderstanding or unexpected change of plans, and be prepared to maintain a positive and productive mindset when such challenges arise. Employees that are able to roll with the punches and stay open to evolving their work style will more easily reach their full potentials than employees that resist change.
Overcoming Personal Challenges: Being adaptable as a remote worker can also be personally beneficial. Life outside of work can be messy and chaotic, but those who can be focused in unusual places and circumstances can stay on top of work responsibilities while also putting out personal fires. For example, just being able to work while riding in the passenger seat or in the school pickup line opens up lots of possibilities for unconventional productivity.
When working remotely, employees are not supervised like they are in an office, and if at home, the more familiar environment can lead to a detrimental blurring of the line that separates work life and home life. Because of this, it can be challenging to stay on task. Family members, personal interests, and the internet’s ocean of distractions are much more accessible while away from the office.
Work Environment: Effective strategies for staying focused differ from person to person, but the right auditory experience and the right surroundings are two of the biggest factors. Background music is helpful for some, but distracting for others. Some people like to mute their phone notifications, but others do not mind them. Some people like going to a coffee shop or park to work. Some people like to have a dedicated spot at home where they consistently work. Still others frequently change up where they go for the day. It is all about finding what works best personally.
Time Management: The Adaptability section mentions working on the go. This can be done well, but it can also be done poorly. Time management is one of the most important tools for being an effective remote worker. By planning time blocks and sticking to them, and making up any work that is left over at the end of the day, remote workers can attain a positive integration of their work and personal lives instead of a detrimental mix-up.
5. Technical Skills
How many Zoom meetings involve audio malfunctions? Remote workers must have basic technical skills in order to succeed in a digital work environment. They must be proficient with a personal computer, and likely a cell phone. Additionally, they must be effective with the software and applications their company uses. They should know basic troubleshooting techniques, be able to resolve low-level technical difficulties, and be able to contact support if the problems are beyond their ability to solve. It also never hurts to ask a support group!
6. Good Judgement
Good judgment brings the other five points together and fills in the cracks. It is an umbrella term in this context, describing the mixture of common sense and professionalism. It means being polite and positive around others, not burdening coworkers with personal drama, having integrity, putting in due effort at work, and generally trying to be a valuable asset to the organization instead of a detriment. It entails taking pride in one’s self-presentation and work, and revealing values through personal conduct.
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