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Five Skills to Improve Your Remote Work Experience Now

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Some changes in the world of work brought about by the pandemic that started last year such as shorter work hours, changing schedules and pay cuts were temporary and short-lived.

Others such as remote work and virtual events and conferences are proving to be more than a trend but the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future.

These changes mean adjusting — and readjusting — to meet different requirements and expectations from employers and coworkers. It is about continuously learning new skills to make teleworking seamless. Whether you are new to the corporate jungle and looking for a job, currently in one or planning to switch to a different environment, these useful skills will make teleworking easier for you:

Self-management

A casual social media scroll in the morning turns into doomscrolling and you realize you haven’t responded to that email or started working on that deadline. Familiar? While it may seem inevitable to fall in the rabbit hole of endless scrolling, which is even more tempting without a supervisor possibly walking behind you, it simply isn’t the right way to work and is definitely not the secret to being productive.

Start the day by listing tasks for the day or week and assigning each a priority level. Place the task list somewhere you can easily see it — on your table or as a sticky note app on your computer. This will help you keep track of progress on each task and stay engaged for the day.

If you find yourself having some downtime, catch up on past activities you weren’t able to attend to or put on hold because of urgent deadlines. Organizing your folders, updating your work file backups or even setting up a better work space are just some of the things to fill the time.   

Collaboration

Team work and collaboration could be extra challenging in a remote work setup. Without physically being able to convene and relying mostly on calls and online chats, the spirit of casual brainstorming may seem less and team members may be less excited to share ideas. Active discussions — even arguments — are simply more engaging face-to-face.

Just the same, we have gotten used to virtual sessions and there are apps that can help. Shared files and folders, for example, are a good way to keep everyone in the group updated on documents and initiate spontaneous brainstorming sessions. Group chats and other dedicated communication channels are great ways to coordinate with team and finalize decisions.

Written and spoken communication

More than Zoom, Teams and Slack, a successful virtual communication means being able to effectively communicate via email, phone call and online chats and knowing which to use when.

Remember that the goal of every communication is to understand and to be understood. So, when sending a message or replying to one, always take into consideration if you’re using the appropriate words and tone — yes, even channel — before hitting Send. Should you be using online chats when sending a job order or is email more appropriate? Need an urgent confirmation? Maybe a personal message or even a call will work best. Should you use emojis in professional emails? Or should you reserve that in friendly chats and casual work conversations? Other factors such as your company’s culture and your relationship with your co-workers have to be considered as well as these add to the nuances of communication.

Even if your job description or deliverable doesn’t include talking to clients or business partners, knowing what to say and how to act in a video call is still a vital skill. Assess the situation and adjust. During such meetings, observe first if the atmosphere is lively or bound to be spoiled by bad news. Otherwise, you might find yourself making jokes before furlough and pay cut announcements. Also, surely you’ve heard or read about Zoom fatigue. If company or business meetings take longer than necessary and you find yourself feeling drained and drifting off, maybe you can get a cup of coffee or water or just pace the room for a while for that quick respite and then get back to the meeting again.

Keeping open communication lines with workmates and other stakeholders is a good foundation for effective collaboration and limits instances of misunderstandings. But finding the balance between overcommunicating and getting things done and deciding which channel to use are also important skills to master.

Written and spoken communication skills come hand in hand and often overlap. You have to be comfortable switching between them while keeping in mind the purpose and appropriate approach necessary.

Disconnecting from work

With the line between work and life blurred, it can be hard to switch back to life and put work aside. Setting boundaries and communicating this well with your workmates is not an indication that you want to work less. Instead, it is a sign of discipline that benefits all. Work, after all, is not a competition of who gets the least sleep.

Often, overworked employees tend to be unhappy and eventually burned out. Michelle Obama advised to plan joy as much as you do work, especially with the increasing demand to be always-on.

What weekend activity — one that doesn’t include work — is going to make you relaxed and happy? What are you going to bury your nose in after you clock out of work? For some, it’s watching a film or catching up on a favorite series, cooking a hearty meal or even a weekend hike. There is no right or wrong way to de-stress as long as you feel good at the end of the day and recharged for the next day or week. 

Focus

Unlike in an office where keeping the peace and quiet is almost mandatory, working from home means having to deal with other family members, young kids and even pets that demand attention, the neighbors’ untimely karaoke sessions and even emergencies around the house. While not everyone has the space and capacity to set up a separate room for an office, a quiet and clean corner with access to sunlight is sufficient for many. Communicating the nature of your work with housemates and making agreements about when it’s okay to make noise or not — during meetings, for example — will help you have that needed peace and quiet when you need it the most. If you have the budget, noise-cancelling headphones block out unnecessary noise that you cannot manage or control.  

Interruptions and distractions are not completely avoidable, however. So you have to weigh if the distraction needs your urgent attention or if it can wait until after you finish your task.

The new normal in the world of work is about new skills and old values. Commitment, punctuality, multitasking and adaptability are all valuable assets that help you thrive in any work environment, whether we switch back to the old ways or keep with this new setup. Pair these with new teleworking skills and you eliminate a lot of hassle and inconvenience that come with remote work and close the day feeling productive. If you’re being extra lucky, you might even feel excited for the next working day and the scheduled virtual meeting.

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