5 skills that matter more than ever.

While many changes brought on by COVID-19 have started reverting back to pre-2020 practices, like social distancing and wearing face masks, working from home is sticking around. Many employers and employees alike have embraced the flexibility and cost savings that a virtual workforce offers. You’ve probably already discovered that performing your job responsibilities at a distance means getting things done in a different way. So if you’re going to be working remotely for the long haul, invest some time and effort in strengthening these five skills to ensure your success.

1. Written communication

Even with phone calls and video conferencing, remote workers communicate in writing more than speaking. Take the time to proofread your emails for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors before you hit send. Also review for clarity and tone ― two things that can greatly impact the effectiveness of your message. Chats and texts call for less formality than email, but you should still give them a once-over before sending.

2. Collaboration

While you may be sitting alone in your home office (or kitchen, living room, bedroom, or basement), you’re still working with a team of colleagues. Collaborating takes a more conscious effort since you can’t just walk over to a coworker to bounce around ideas. Take advantage of technology that promotes collaboration, like shared documents and chat platforms. Video meetings are a great substitute for in-person gatherings, but be careful: overusing this communication channel can reduce productivity and dampen creativity.

3. Focus

Managing distractions can be a constant battle when you work from home. Whether you have kids needing your attention, pets causing a disturbance, neighbors making noise, or household chores calling your name, staying focused on work can be a challenge. Start by creating a clutter-free workspace that helps you feel calm and organized. Select the quietest space in your home or use headphones if you have to deal with loud background noise. Try to set boundaries for your time to avoid frequent interruptions (i.e., let family members know when you can’t be disturbed).

4. Time management

You don’t have coworkers or managers looking over your shoulder at home — it’s up to you to stay on-task and meet your deadlines. If you find yourself struggling with time management, try apps designed to boost productivity and track your time (such as Freedom, Toggl, and Todoist, to name a few). Block off certain times of day as focus hours, where you work on a single important task until it’s done. Or try working in sprints where you work for a period of time, then take a short break before repeating the cycle. Be sure to turn off email and chat notifications during focus time so you don’t get sidetracked.

5. Adaptability

Remote working offers a lot of flexibility, but requires adaptability in return. That means being prepared to adapt when unexpected challenges arise, such as internet or wifi issues, server problems, and logins not working. Be ready for these situations, know who to contact to resolve them, and have a backup plan. You also may need to adapt to working with colleagues in a different time zone or joining a new team that has a different way of doing things. Staying flexible and keeping an open mind — along with a sense of humor — will help you adjust to whatever comes your way.

“5 Must-Have Skills for Remote Work,” Forbes (www.forbes.com), July 30, 2020