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18 Essential Remote Work Skills for Remote Workers

18 Essential Remote Work Skills for Remote Workers

If you're part of the majority of people who want to continue working remotely post-pandemic, we've got good news. Remote work has never been more accessible. The number of remote-friendly companies is increasing, driven by employers and employees learning about remote work benefits.

There's never been a better time to be a remote job seeker. There are remote-focused job boards and fantastic resources on how to find a remote job or how to ask to work from home.

However, despite the growing demand for remote employees, many would-be remote workers aren't prepared for the challenges that working from a home office can introduce.

Employers hiring for work from home jobs aren't only looking for someone who has the skills and experience to do the job, they also need to be able to trust the employee to be accountable, reliable, and ready to work in a remote environment.

Being successful in a remote workforce relies on having the specific skills and experience to do the job and a variety of important soft skills.

Luckily, remote work skills can be learned if you know what they are.

Woman working in cafe

What are remote work skills?

Remote work skills are a set of tangible and intangible skills that are essential to productivity in a remote work environment. Some important skills required for remote work include: being accountable, a self-starter, discipline, organization, problem-solving, punctuality, adaptability, effective communication, and strong time management.

Man reading at desk

Why is it important to have remote work skills?

If you want to work remotely full-time, you need to have remote work skills. Even if you don't want to work remotely all the time, most companies are adopting a hybrid work model which means you'll likely be working remotely at least some of the time.

As a result, companies want to hire employees who can demonstrate remote work skills during the interview process, even if the role will be a mix of in-office and remote work.

Additionally, having these skills will open you up to more job opportunities as you'll be able to work for companies that aren't in commuting distance.

The 18 essential remote work skills

The 18 essential remote work skills are:

  1. Ability to work independently
  2. Self motivation
  3. Time management
  4. Organization
  5. Intentional communication skills
  6. Ability to learn new digital tools
  7. Cross-cultural literacy
  8. Collaboration
  9. Cybersecurity awareness
  10. Emotional intelligence
  11. Work-life balance
  12. Adaptability
  13. Focus
  14. Critical thinking and decision-making
  15. Problem solving
  16. Time zone consciousness
  17. A willingness to ask for help
  18. Punctual
Woman working at desk

1. Ability to work independently

Potential employers are looking for self-starters who have the technical skills to do their job and a strong work ethic. Being able to work independently is even more important when you work on a remote team spread across geographies and time zones.

If your boss is signing off as you are starting your day, you need to be able to make decisions and continue working even though you might not be able to get a response to your questions until the following day.

This skill is even more important if you work on a remote team that relies on asynchronous communication. We've put together an in-depth guide on asynchronous communication if you want to learn more.

Woman working in cafe

2. Self motivation

When your manager isn't there to physically check that you're working, you need to motivate yourself to stay productive. Successful remote workers create their own schedule and routine to keep focused and stay on task.

If you have a busy home life with kids, you may find it helpful to hire someone to look after them or find other ways to keep them entertained while you're busy at work. If you can, investing in a designated home office with a door can be a great way to buffer household distractions.

3. Time management

One of the benefits and challenges of remote work is that you have complete control over your time. In an office, micromanagement or intraday check-ins are the norm. For virtual work, you need to find a way of prioritizing your own tasks.

You need to teach yourself project management skills and create a routine for prioritizing your work each day, such as eating the frog (doing the hardest task first).

Person writing in notebook

4. Organization

Being organized doesn't necessarily mean you need to have a militant work schedule. One of the main reasons people choose to work from home is the flexibility it provides.

The flexibility is great, but you also need to be organized so that you have systems in place to effectively manage your time and work output. Remember without supervision, maintaining an organized work environment falls entirely on you.

Zoom meeting

5. Intentional communication skills

Communication is essential in an office environment and even more important when working remotely. When the majority of your communication happens through email, chat, and other forms of writing, strong communication skills are especially important.

Most remote companies will rely on written documentation to onboard, communicate, and scale their team. So writing, in particular, is one of the most essential remote skills. Video conferencing is great to connect with remote team members in real-time, but doesn't scale as well as writing. Particularly when multiple time zones are involved.

To be successful in a remote environment, you need to be able to clearly communicate in writing.

Two colleagues working on computer

6. Ability to learn new digital tools

Every remote work environment relies on digital tools to effectively collaborate across geographies and time zones. Each remote company will have its own set of tools and methods to facilitate remote working, which means the ability to learn new skills is in high demand.

You don't need to have experience with every tool out there but you do need to have a growth mindset and be capable of learning new technologies on your own.

If possible, we recommend working at companies that use a tech stack you're familiar with. Our remote company profiles include the tools and technologies each company uses and can form the basis of your research.

Zoom meeting

7. Cross-cultural literacy

Cross-cultural literacy is the ability to collaborate with team members from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. To be successful in a remote role, you need to be able to find common ground with people who have different language abilities, communication styles, cultural backgrounds, and traditions.

While this can be a challenge, it's also one of the biggest advantages of remote work. Your team can be made up of the best people for the job, regardless of location. Not only does this make your team more productive, it also makes for a more diverse and interesting company culture.

Two colleagues talking over coffee

8. Collaboration

Working remotely doesn't mean you're working alone. You are still part of a remote team which means you will rely on other people to get important work done. Without a physical space, collaboration can be more challenging.

This is why communication skills and cross-cultural literacy are so important when working remotely. It's also why remote companies invest heavily in writing and choosing the right tools.

Woman working at cafe

9. Cybersecurity awareness

Cybersecurity is one of the most overlooked challenges of remote work. While employers should provide you with everything you need when you start a new job, you still need to be aware of your role in keeping the company, its customers, and yourself secure.

We recommend having a secure office that can be locked when you're working from home. If you choose to work at a cafe, remember to keep an eye on your laptop. Likewise if you work in a co-working space.

You should also keep your devices up-to-date and use strong passwords. A simple way to maintain good password security is to invest in a password manager like 1Password.

Finally, enable two-factor authentication for all your services. It can dramatically reduce the risk of phishing.

Two colleagues working on a computer

10. Emotional intelligence

When working in a remote position, you'll spend a lot of time working independently and non-verbal cues can be rare. Without non-verbal cues and real-time communication, miscommunication and misunderstanding are common.

This is why high emotional intelligence is important for remote workers. If you're aware of your emotions and can build interpersonal relationships with your colleagues without being physically close to them, you'll have a far better time.

Group having dinner together

11. Work-life balance

Contrary to popular belief, remote workers aren't lazy. It's one of the most common remote work myths. In fact, the most cited challenge of remote work is overworking. When you can't leave the office, the boundaries between your personal life and professional life can blur.

Having a strong work-life balance is essential to stay happy, healthy, and productive. This includes being able to set clear boundaries with your team to avoid burning out.

We recommend sticking to a routine that works for you and prioritizing work that has the highest impact.

Woman working at table

12. Adaptability

The pandemic has shown everyone how important it is to be able to adapt. Remote workers need to be adaptable when Internet is spotty, an important work tool goes down, or when their equipment malfunctions.

It's about being able to solve unexpected problems without panicking or overreacting. Change is a constant when working remotely and those who are proactive and resourceful will perform best.

Man at desk focused

13. Focus

One of the common challenges of working from home are distractions. From pets to children to noise from our roommates, spouse, or neighbors, it can be hard to find a space that's 100% distraction-free. Your ability to focus on deep work is an invaluable remote work skill.

If you're struggling to focus, we recommend blocking out as many visual and audible distractions as possible. Noise canceling headphones are a fantastic investment, as is cleaning up your workspace. Removing visual clutter can dramatically enhance your ability to focus.

Board with notes

14. Critical thinking and decision-making

Critical thinking and sound decision-making are important in a physical workplace but even more important when you're part of a remote workforce.

When your manager isn't available to you at a whim, you need to be able to analyze and make the right decisions quickly. It's up to you to decide what to work on next and how to progress your tasks along.

Man reviewing his work on whiteboard

15. Problem solving

In a remote environment, it's important to be able to solve new problems on your own. When you can't walk up to someone's desk and ask a question, figuring out things on your own is essential.

This is particularly important if you work in a different time zone to your manager or co-workers.

Woman chatting on video call

16. Time zone consciousness

Since you'll likely be working in a different time zone to at least some of your team, you need to be extra aware of time zones. Even if you all work in the same time zone, remote working can make it difficult to know what your co-workers are doing at any particular moment. So you still need to be time-sensitive.

If you need to call a meeting, make a point to choose a date and time that is appropriate for all participants. You should also record all meetings and share them with everyone who is invited so anyone who wasn't able to attend doesn't miss out.

Two colleagues chatting

17. A willingness to ask for help

Asking for help can be challenging in any work environment and it's not always easy to get help when working remotely but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask.

If you're good at recognizing when you need a hand, you'll have a massive advantage over those who never ask for help. Yes, you need to be proactive, good at problem solving, and be able to learn new tools by yourself. But if you've done everything you can and you're still stuck, ask for help.

Woman on video call

18. Punctuality

When you have limited face-to-face time with your team, being punctual becomes increasingly important. Remember, some of your team members may be staying back late or waking up early to make the meeting.

It's natural to run late from time to time, particularly when you're engrossed in a task. Just don't let the behavior become a habit. Do your best to always be on time and punctual.

Himalayas website

Looking for a remote job or looking to hire remote talent?

If you've made it this far, there's a good chance you're either looking to find a remote job, already working remotely, or looking to attract remote employees.

Either way, we'd love to introduce ourselves. We're Himalayas, a remote job board, that is focused on providing the best experience for remote job seekers and employers.

Check out our remote jobs, use our remote company database, or sign up and create your free company profile here.