7 Essential Soft Skills for Remote Employees

Discover 7 soft skills that are essential for remote positions — such as being communicative, cooperative, flexible, and more.

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7 Essential Soft Skills for Remote Employees

In a 2021 survey by Ernst & Young, 79% of surveyed businesses said they plan to make “moderate to extensive hybrid work changes.” These plans come on the heels of employees demanding more flexible work arrangements.

The reality is that many employers who wish to remain competitive will need to employ partially or fully remote workers at some point. If you’re in that group, it’s important to hire people who have the appropriate soft skills. This is in addition to the necessary hard skills — which are job-related knowledge and abilities.

Conversely, soft skills refer to attributes or personality traits — such as stress management, problem solving, and decision-making. Although these skills are highly transferable, some positions require specific soft skills. That said, below are 7 soft skills that are typically essential to remote positions.

soft skills refer to attributes or personality traits — such as stress management, problem solving, and decision-making.

1. Communicative

Employees should have strong communication skills, regardless of whether the position is remote or onsite. However, communication is critical for remote positions because of the distance involved. Whether communicating via phone, text, or video, employees who work remotely should know how to do the following:

  • Listen well
  • Write clearly and accurately
  • Speak articulately
  • Remain tonally aware

Candidates who display those 4 abilities are better equipped to:

  • Build strong relationships with peers, managers, and customers
  • Report progress and share their ideas with the team without difficulty
  • Resolve operational and interpersonal problems

2. Cooperative

Working remotely can feel isolating, but every employee is part of a team. Indeed, many remote positions require close collaboration between individuals and teams, wherein information is shared and discussed, tasks are added and adjusted, responsibilities are divided up, and so on.

According to a recent study of engineers, the group was 20% more likely to collaborate when they were in the same room than when separated. This same group was also 400% more likely to send project-related emails back and forth and worked approximately 32% faster.

Oddly enough, a remote work pilot conducted by MIT employees found that 93% of remote participants reported improved collaboration compared to onsite results.

These mixed outcomes regarding teamwork and remote work may have to do with granular differences between job types and personalities. Regardless, if a remote employee is uncooperative, it can lead to all sorts of problems — including interpersonal conflict and derailed projects.

3. Organized

There’s no single approach to working remotely. Some people prefer to work from home while others like switching up their surroundings. Whatever the case, the most successful remote employees are able to recreate the sort of structure usually afforded by a static, physical office — no matter where they are.

Whether working in their home office, at their favorite coffee shop, or on the beach, staying on-task remotely requires the following organizational sub-traits:

  • Self-discipline
  • Accountability
  • Attention to detail
  • Strategic thinking
  • Task prioritization
  • Time management
  • Independence

Simply put, remote employees must be able to keep track of their work goals without external help. These soft skills are directly linked to the next one: self-motivation.

4. Self-motivated

Self-starting remote employees make their employers’ lives easier by executing their tasks without the need for constant oversight or deadline-badgering.

Offices are filled with plenty of distractions of their own. However, there are typically more distractions in the home than in the office. If a remote employee isn’t self-motivated, then they are likely to be distracted and unreliable when it comes to their work.

Self-starting remote employees make their employers’ lives easier by executing their tasks without the need for constant oversight or deadline-badgering. This is a win for remote employees, too, since it affords them even more independence.

Note that different employees are motivated by different things. For some, the freedom to work from any location is inspiring enough to propel them forward. For others, financial incentives and other tangible benefits are prime motivators. Others simply love what they do and may require minimal external incentives to get the job done.

5. Flexible

Remote positions often demand more flexibility than onsite roles. This flexibility is one of the main appeals of working outside the office. Even if an employee is expected to work from home, the job parameters may be subject to change. This is especially true for international teams that must contend with disparate time zones and language barriers.

Remote employees may be asked to:

  • Work at unusual times of the day
  • Handle unexpected assignments
  • Adapt to a technological change (e.g., new software or hardware requirements)
  • Switch roles on the fly

Individuals who can promptly adjust to reasonable work changes — plus quickly absorb new information — may be a good fit for remote positions.

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6. Balanced

While remote employees should be highly flexible, it’s also vital for them to set clear boundaries with their employers.

Some remote workers have a hard time maintaining a healthy work/life balance because work is a swipe, click, or tap away. However, everyone needs appropriate breaks to stay productive and avoid burnout.

Remote employees should be confident and disciplined enough to set their own boundaries and effectively communicate them to their manager or supervisor. These boundaries are typically centered around paid time off, work load, meal and break periods, and other wellness and wellbeing factors.

7. Professional

The 6 soft skills mentioned above all tie into this final one: professionalism. One might not have to dress up for work when working remotely, but all other employee expectations remain.

Professionalism is about:

  • Being honest and trustworthy
  • Showing up for work on time
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Sticking to commitments
  • Leading by example
  • Being respectful
  • Adhering to the code of conduct

Hiring remote employees who exhibit professionalism helps you achieve your operational goals and retain a positive brand image.

Don’t forget about soft skills

Although no one knows exactly what the workplace will look like in the future, we can safely bet that remote work will continue to accelerate. Finding remote employees with the right technical skills is crucial, but don’t lose sight of the soft skills that these employees must have in order to be succeed at work.

As indicated earlier, soft skills requirements or preferences can vary by remote position. At a minimum, though, your remote employees should be communicative, cooperative, organized, self-motivated, flexible, balanced, and professional.

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