In the United States, approximately 40% more employers are offering work from home accommodations for staff. Only 27% of American organizations (before the pandemic) provided full-time work from home opportunities.
The transition to remote work for health and safety has been rapid for many organizations, across sectors and functions including sales, marketing, tech support and administrative customer service roles. Because the global business community is not certain about the duration of the pandemic, many employers are seeking to hire professionals that have successfully demonstrated the ability to work from home.
There are six essential skills that prospective hires should have if you plan to employ them on a part-time or full-time remote work structure.
1. Moderate to High Level of Digital Fluency
Working from home is not working independently; your new hire is still very much part of your team. Their geographic location only determines how they connect with the rest of the team. Many employees who work remotely share that they connect with peers and management at the same level they would if they were seated in the same office.
Seamless remote work requires good hardware and software solutions. First, employees will have to be comfortable using a VOIP phone (and setting that up). Companies that have transitioned 50% or more of their employees to remote work arrangements, may need to introduce new communication and / or project management software.
Some of the essential software used by organizations includes:
- Zoom for web conferencing. Over 30,000 companies use Zoom for employee and client facing meetings. Zoom announced that in 2020, 12.92 active monthly users are accessing their video conference platform for meetings, training, recording webinars and other activities.
- SLACK is another easy to install messaging system that more than 12 million people use on a daily basis. The mobile version makes it easy for managers to engage on the go. In SLACK, managers can create #channels to organize employees into departments, or projects.
- Monday.com is a time and task management system that provides unique project boards for assignments. Whether you are managing an I.T. or development team on a remote project or daily activities for your administrative, marketing or sales department(s), Monday.com is an effective way to track progress and workflow. You can also build custom automations within Monday.com (such as notifying others when a task is complete, sending a completed project for review and client billing, and much more).
If your company already has an intranet with instant messaging, file sharing, calendar, and task scheduling, the transition is easy for staff members. But for organizations that do not have a private VPN secure intranet, it means adding software and licenses for employees now working from home. The cost of licensing each computer for a remote employee is the same as it would be in office. Make sure you have a process in place to revoke licenses when or if a staff member leaves.
2. High Level of Self-Motivation
The global health emergency has forced many companies to rapidly adopt remote work arrangements for staff. A move to keep infection rates down, and keep business moving through the exceptional circumstances. And for many companies, the challenges, and hurdles to adopting remote work accommodations (which started in February and March 2020) are behind them. Many companies we speak to have very successfully implemented the migration of employees from in-office to work-from-home.
But that also means that some employees (who may never have worked from home before) have had to adapt. The idea of remote work is always appealing who doesn’t want to feel safe and comfortable (and productive) working from home. However, the arrangement requires some soft skills, technological and time management skills that many employees may not have.
Self-motivation is one of the most important skills you can hire for when looking to add another remote employee to your organization. They must have a driving sense of accountability for their personal productivity from home. And to look for ways to contribute to the team if they have completed their tasks for the day.
3. Independent Troubleshooting Capabilities
The internet is down. Now what? When you are working from home, you cannot call the I.T. department to come “have a look”. You can contact them for help but that can take time. Most remote workers have to have the hardware, software, and administrative troubleshooting skills to manage and reduce downtime.
Internet is down? Switch to hotspot if possible (unless you are required to work on a secure VPN). Do not have the information you need to complete a task? Let a colleague or manager know, so that they can remove the barrier and help you have a productive day.
4. Advanced Time Management Skills
Working from home is not easy. There are distractions everywhere. From the dog barking (and overjoyed that you are working from home), to that neighbor who is doing home renovations. The noise and distraction level can be deafening for remote workers.
Time management skills for remote workers means creating the same workflow and schedule that you had in your office. Successful professionals create a formal schedule that also includes breaks. Instead of saying hello to a co-worker at the coffee station, you will be standing in your own kitchen talking to your dog, but a structured schedule helps create balance and promotes productivity for at-home employees.
5. Appropriate Home Office Set-Up
Some employees will be able to dedicate a room to a separate office. Others may use the living room or a corner in the kitchen. If they work at home (and alone without distractions) during the day, it does not matter what area of their house or flat they work in. As long as they have the essentials which include:
- A desk
- A chair
- High-speed internet
- A printer/scanner and fax machine (all in one)
- Office supplies (steno note pads, toner, paper, etc.)
- A smartphone with anti-virus and secure VPN (if a VOIP phone is not provided)
Taking conference calls at the local Starbucks is not going to work. And it is not a good idea to access a public network with private corporate data and communications. It's important as you are interviewing prospective remote hires, that you define what you consider to be an effective workspace environment at home.
6. A Healthy Daily Routine
When you are used to a daily work routine of getting up, get ready, and get out the door to the office, working from home can be difficult to adjust to. No matter how desirable it is to work from home, it can also cause malaise.
The average professional employee spends 100 minutes per day or more commuting to the workplace. A recent study from Stanford revealed that employees who voluntarily work from home are happier and more productive. The same study reported that the average telecommuting professional puts in one extra day of work each workweek, starting their day earlier in most cases to complete tasks.
But balance can also be a problem for an employee who is not used to working from home. The “Always-On” culture of working whenever you have a spare moment can also lead to fatigue, loss of productivity, and a normal sense of workday expectations and scheduling.
Employers should communicate to remote staff that they should follow a regular schedule of business hours (as they would if they worked from home). A little extra time here and there for special projects is appreciated of course. But foster a corporate culture of life-balance to help your employees rejuvenate and remain engaged and productive. Time and task management software can help management review workflow and progress on projects while helping employees maintain a healthy schedule.
The Novel Covid-19 coronavirus health emergency created a situation of necessity, where businesses had to evaluate which roles and job functions could successfully migrate to remote work arrangements. An easy transition for professionals who had experience working from home. A more difficult and possibly stressful transition for employees who have never had the opportunity to do so. When hiring new staff, employers should carefully review the profile of the position to determine the feasibility of remote work for the role. And then, ensure that the candidate you are hiring is comfortable and capable of being a productive team member, from their home office environment.