(This article was written by Ashira Prossack and appeared on forbes.com.)
Remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
With many companies announcing the extension of their work from home policies through at least the end of the year, it’s clear that this isn’t just a trend. To succeed and thrive in a remote work environment, both employees and leaders need to focus on developing these four skills
Strong written communication.
When teams work remotely, at least half of all communication is done via writing rather than speaking. This means communicating through emails, Slack or texting. It even applies to using the chat function while you’re on a video call. You need to be able to clearly communicate no matter what platform you’re using.
Always check spelling, grammar and punctuation and proofread emails before sending them. You’ll also want to ensure you’re using the right level of formality and the right tone depending on who you’re communicating with. You can get away with less formality when messaging your coworkers than you can with your boss. Texts and Slack also call for less formality than email.
Working remotely doesn’t mean working alone. You’re still going to be part of a team, which means working with colleagues on projects and tasks. Without a physical space to gather, collaboration can be a bit more challenging.
Communication skills and collaboration skills go hand in hand, as communication plays a huge role in successful collaboration. Find the right balance of video meetings, phone calls and messages to ensure ample but not overwhelming communication.
Make use of tools like project management software, shared documents and folders and dedicated Slack channels where people can easily chat with each other and find information. Get comfortable using these types of applications and working within shared documents. Become an expert in the tools and applications you’re using so that you can take advantage of all of their features.
Working from home means there will always be distractions. From pets and children to noise from your roommates or neighbors, it’s nearly impossible to find a space that’s 100% distraction free. Your ability to focus around these distractions is an invaluable skill.
Maintain your focus by blocking out some of the visual and audible distractions. Noise cancelling headphones are fantastic, as is the power of an organized workspace. Remove as much clutter from your space as possible so your focus is only on your work. Embrace the fact that there will be interruptions and don’t dwell on an interruption when it happens. Decide if the interruption requires immediate attention or if it can be dealt with later, then quickly shift your focus back to work.
The ability to successfully manage your own time is an invaluable skill to have, benefiting both yourself and your employer. When working from home, you don’t have any of your coworkers looking over your shoulder or the boost that comes from knowing your manager could walk by at any time. It’s up to you to stay focused on your work and ensure that you complete everything that’s assigned to you.
If you find yourself struggling with time management, try apps designed to boost productivity and track your time. Block off certain times of the day to dedicate as focus hours, where you work on one single important task at a time. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked with emails or Slack notifications. Try working in sprints where you work for a period of time then take a short break before repeating the cycle. Experiment to find the method that works best for you.
Remote jobs offer a lot of flexibility, but that flexibility goes beyond simply being able to choose your working hours and work location. It means that you have to be prepared to adapt to new ways of working, sporadic changes, and unexpected situations.
You might be working with colleagues who are in a different time zone which impacts deadlines, when meetings can be scheduled, and even when you can get in touch with those colleagues. If you’re assigned to work with a new team, you might have to adapt to the way that team works.
Unexpected challenges also arise like internet or wifi issues, server problems, and logins not working. Be prepared for these situations, know who to contact to resolve them, and have a backup plan. Sometimes is takes a bit of creative problem solving to find a solution, but that’s all part of being adaptable.