As people suddenly transitioned to remote work, they were bombarded with relevant articles around logistics. Most tips covered questions like: How do I remove distractions while working from home? How do I set up a “work-from-home” station? What’s the etiquette for video calls?
But as this transition has become the new norm (whether permanently or as a flexible, hybrid option), the focus has shifted. It’s time to get a handle on work from home skills that not only make the situation workable, but that also make it productive and effective.
There are many things you can do to get your organization running smoothly with remote work. One of the most important is to offer training on work from home skills. The questions you should be asking now are: What are the skills we need to be as productive and successful as we were before the transition? How do we train ourselves and our teams on those skills?
How remote work has changed the way we work
But first, let’s take a step back. Is there really a need to upskill or train employees now that the same work is being done remotely?
The short answer is yes.
Even though the tools for work may be the same, the way people use them and the roles they play are changing. Likewise, even though workdays seem like “business as usual”, the challenges of a physical and a remote workplace are quite different.
This means that we need to unlearn some habits, learn new skills and learn how to use new tools, and even adjust the ways we use existing skills and tools to address new work conditions.
For example, remote work relies exclusively on technology for communication. Yes, there were remote workers and distributed teams using messaging apps, video meetings, and project management tools before the pandemic. And even in-office employees used the same methods to collaborate.
But asynchronous communication and messaging are now taking on bigger, more important roles since they need to:
- Replace face-to-face decision-making. Messaging, texting, and email are now used more to pose serious questions, raise concerns, and talk through solutions.
- Support more flexible work hours. Employees in different locations may now be on different schedules as they balance work and home life. Communication becomes asynchronous to meet the more fluid timelines.
What this example shows is that a transition to remote work or to a hybrid work model doesn’t mean you have to start everything from scratch, ditch all the tools you’ve been using, and learn completely new skills.
Modern tools give you the functionality you need to adapt your business to remote work. And training will help you do this smoothly. So, the real question is: Where do you start from? Which skills should you prioritize to help your teams navigate this (new) remote work environment?
6 work from home skills your teams should master
You can help your team transition to successful remote work by focusing your training on developing relevant skills. Consider the following six skill sets you may want to include in your training strategy for remote workers.
1. Remote communication etiquette
Teaching your employees how to use soft skills in the workplace has a big impact on productivity and employee satisfaction. Good communication skills are essential to any successful organization. But remote interactions have their own nuances.
A conscientious in-office employee would never shout during a planning session, ignore a coworker asking them for help, or come dressed inappropriately for a business meeting. Such behavior undermines respect and professionalism. But certain virtual communication behaviors can have the same effects if people aren’t aware.
Training people on how to appropriately show up to video conferencing, and how to be accessible and responsive on- and offline will help your teams collaborate effectively—even when they’re off-site.
2. Clear, effective written communication
When teams go remote, it pays to grow written communication skills—even for those whose job descriptions don’t involve writing. A lot of asynchronous communication between remote colleagues happens in written form like emails and chats. Poor written communication skills could create misunderstandings and hurt collaboration.
For instance, during face-to-face conversations, tone of voice and body language carry a lot of context. If an employee says “yes” to a deadline but is nervous about meeting it, their hesitation may be obvious to their leaders as they speak tentatively and look worried.
However, if the same interaction takes place over email, the leader just sees “yes” in the text and assumes everything is fine. They don’t offer additional support and the employee may end up feeling stranded.
Training employees on how to communicate in writing avoids any misunderstandings. You can help them by focusing on how to discuss high-stakes topics and express concerns and questions clearly and respectfully.
As more critical work happens online, it’s a good idea to train your teams on cybersecurity. People working from public spaces or in shared spaces with non-colleagues should know and follow very specific instructions about how to handle their work devices.
You’ll also want to include training on topics like maintaining strong passwords and protecting sensitive data. Or, on best practices for preventing viruses and malware from infiltrating hardware.
You could pay a heavy price for a data breach, or even put your business at risk. All employees should receive cybersecurity awareness training to ensure safe remote working practices.
4. Time management and organization
Working from home can blur the boundaries between work and home life. Your employees may need help with effective time management to keep the balance in check.
Organizing work can be a very different experience outside the office, with its structured hours and regular meetings. Employees may lose track of deadlines when they’re not communicating in real-time with others on the team. Or, they may get easily distracted by their home working environment. Flexible hours might leave them wondering how to prioritize tasks during the day.
You can help remote employees maintain productivity and avoid burnout by giving them the skills to organize their time and avoid distractions.
5. Mental health and wellbeing
Employee happiness and morale can be another casualty of mixing work and home life. People get overwhelmed or burned out when they don’t have the tools to manage the two together.
Help employees keep a healthy balance with training on mindfulness and wellbeing best practices. Teach them the skills to manage stress and determine priorities. Help them understand how to draw and enforce appropriate boundaries. These practices will give them the control to build a positive employee experience.
6. Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Remote work can create perceived divisions between those in the office and those working off-site. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training can help break down the barriers of “us vs. them” thinking.
Companies benefit when all employee voices are heard. Make your remote work environment inclusive by teaching employees to recognize unconscious biases, make work accessible, and value others’ contributions. And give your managers the skills to recognize needs and treat their team members equally—no matter where they work.
Be flexible in training remote work skills
Even if you have a robust work-from-home plan in place, employees may need extra help getting up to speed. Work from home might change the direction or scope of your employee training plans.
As you consider your remote work training strategy, keep in mind another skill: agility. You need to be agile while working, but also while building or implementing the courses you offer. Be ready to meet employees’ needs by updating their training frequently.
With training tailored to the new remote work norm, you’ll support your employees and make this new way of working a success.
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