Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for many in Human Resources this year has been the sudden movement of workers out of the office and back into to their homes, as companies are forced to come to terms with the necessary transition to remote work. Businesses are now faced with the problem of maintaining the productivity and satisfaction of a workforce divided and scattered, protecting synergy despite vastly different environments for each individual.
Any notion that companies can weather the storm and hope for a return to an industry devoid of remote work should be dismissed, with forecasters already backing the predictions held by many that the influence Covid-19 has had on how we work will not be disappearing along with the virus. Instead it’s time to adapt to the new normal, and with that comes the recognition of how vital soft skills will be for future success.
At the heart of remote work is self-disciple, a skill which can be even more difficult to tackle when in an informal environment, separated from colleagues.
The challenge of avoiding distractions and staying firmly on task is balanced by a high degree of freedom in how employees complete their goals. Some workers have the potential to flourish when given total control over their own schedule, following an individualistic plan which works perfectly for them. Performance leadership coach Ashira Prossack has suggested some more practical solutions for those less self-motivated, such as noise-cancelling headphones or apps which boost productivity and track time.
Maintaining self-disciple overlaps with another soft skill favorable for remote workers: adaptability.
Certain methods of working may simply not be transferrable to the home, but viable substitutes and different ways of achieving the same goals must be found. Remote working is likely to continue to evolve, and we can expect brand new hurdles to materialise within this developing system, IT complications already being one frustratingly frequent example. Keeping support available to help resolve unexpected issues is a top down step which should be taken, but workers with a talent for innovative problem solving may be able to overcome challenges independently.
In addressing the soft skill of communication, (now more important than ever) Darren Murph of all-remote company GitLab stresses how different a dialogue can feel for those working from home. He suggests that leadership may need to involve a more “empathetic touch” and that some consideration be taken as to how team members would prefer to receive information. Clear and concise messaging also lays groundwork for any remote employee joining mid-project and attempting to catch up.
One final area to consider for key soft skills in the move to remote work is collaboration. As Prossack states “Working remotely doesn’t mean you’re alone”; there may be a physical divide, but working online opens up access to a huge range of tools to keep connections in your team dynamic. Give some thought to your file sharing services, messaging applications, project management software, and which team members are assigned to their organization.
There are so many useful and effective tools on the market now to stay engaged and interactive with your employees, so companies should be investing in these areas.
While these skills have always had strongly positive effects on the work environment, in our changing landscape many businesses could soon find such soft skills indispensable.