Soft Skills for Transitioning to Online Work

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By Angela Johnson

May 20 , 2020

You have the work experience, education, and skills that every employer is looking for. You have successfully climbed the corporate ladder and your accolades are impressive. Are these things enough to help you transition from the world of working on the job to working remotely? Do you have the soft skills that are needed to land a job in which you work independently from the comfort of your home? Can you effectively manage technology to get the job done?

In other words, do you have the Soft Skills that make working remotely different from anything you have ever done before?

While it may seem that it is a no-brainer that everyone can work from home, there is more to it than it appears. Many people believe that working remotely is simply a change of scenery. You just move your workspace from one of many to just one; you no longer are among the ranks of those who have commuted long hours to get to work to just rolling out of bed and stumbling to your desk in your pajamas. You no longer have to make small talk around the coffee pot about the weekend but rather sip your morning brew in blissful solitude.

Before we dive into the soft skills that are needed, let’s look at these unique dimensions a bit further by asking yourself some questions:

  • Do you enjoy and even thrive off of the banter that occurs at the coffee pot or in the lunchroom with coworkers?
  • Does your daily commute give you an opportunity to catch up on your reading or to chat with friends?
  • Do you need the help of others when you get stuck on a problem or want to bounce ideas off another person?

The answers to your questions will give you insight into whether you already have what it takes to work from home or if it is truly the right option for you.

Although it may seem that working from home is just a change of physical location, in fact, it is a unique opportunity requiring unique skills. To achieve success working in this new environment, one study conducted by researchers from Okanagan College School of Business identifies several skills that are critical for workers to have.

  • In an office environment, you can easily pop into your boss’ office to ask a question or yell over to a coworker for help. In a remote position, you may have to reach out via email or phone and wait for a response that may not be so immediate. On the other hand, you may need to be self-reliant, using your own skills of problem-solving to effectively resolve the issue at hand.
  • Communication Skills. Although video-conferencing makes it easier to communicate quickly using face-to-face communication skills, much more communication occurs through email and chats. You should be able to succinctly and clearly get your message across in a way that others will understand and be able to respond to. This will include proper spelling and appropriate word choice since the recipient cannot read your tone or intention from words alone.
  • In an office environment, you may have been comfortable with technology knowing that a support person was just a phone call or step away. Working remotely will require that you can maneuver through the various online communication systems, company-specific software, and even technology challenges that often arise on your own. If you aren’t comfortable with technology yet, settle in, and get comfy.
  • Self-motivated. When you are working remotely, there is no one standing behind you to remind you about deadlines and due dates. No one to check on your progress or notice when you are late getting back to your desk from lunch. Working remotely requires that you are self-motivated enough to complete your tasks on time, to meet deadlines, and to limit distractions. It may be very easy to get drawn into your favorite television show if you are not self-motivated and disciplined to avoid interruptions and delays.
  • Emotional intelligence. Going into this new role or position blindly may not be the best option for success. You must know your personality, your abilities, and what makes you uniquely capable of handling the challenges that may arise from working remotely. In other words, you must understand and develop your emotional intelligence.

Disciplined, trustworthy, curious, adaptable. You may never have used these words to describe yourself before but now that you are transitioning to working remotely, they will prove to be essential to your success. Again, ask yourself several very important questions:

  • Can you work independently?
  • Are you disciplined, accountable, and manage change easily?
  • Are you aware of your personality traits and are you willing to change?

Working from home is certainly not for everyone but if you are willing to work on and develop your soft skills, you can transition to an online career probably more easily than you thought possible.

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