Remote workers need to have a special skill-set to be successful at their job. By special we mean, your existing skill-set, but a little exaggerated.

If you are a good communicator, then you have to be an over-communicator. If you are good with time management, you have to be excellent at it. If you are self-motivated, you are close to what we call a ‘Successful, Independent remote worker’.

Whether you are working remotely (of course you are), or looking for remote jobs, fret not.

This article is to help you boost your current skills, and help you in getting better at remote working.

The sudden shift of our lifestyle, gave some of us mild tremors, whereas some of us were shaken to the core. With the change in our work environment, the way we work has changed too. We’ve moved to digital communication tools, we talk on zoom and slack. We don’t have anyone monitoring us. Nor we have anyone motivating us.

But in some time (months or years) our reactions to commuting to an office everyday will change.

With this change we need some changes in our skill-set too. Here is as list of skills you need, to be a successful at working remotely.

Disclaimer 1- This blog is written by a remote worker

Disclaimer 2- Companies ARE recruiting remote workers.

Disclaimer 3- There are some companies that have gone 100% remote even before this pandemic started

1. Over communication

The communication skills needed for a 9-to-5 job are completely different from the skills needed while working remotely. You are not in a social environment anymore. You can’t walk into your manager’s office if you are facing any problem with that presentation.

Elimination of in-person interaction has resulted in unclear communication and understanding between co-workers. The skill set needed for digital communication is a contrast to ‘normal communication’.

You need excellent written communication skills to perform as a remote worker. Having the understanding of choosing the right mode of communication for a particular message is crucial. Should you write a long email, send it on slack or have a quick zoom call?

It all depends on your team members and the importance of the message. The best way is to always followup the conference call with an email circulated to the attendees, making every point clear and mentioning all the tasks and responsibilities.

If your team is spread across geographies, English would be a second language and sending them a written message would be a better option compared to a call. They can read and understand it at their own pace.

Remote first companies like Buffer and Doist practice Asynchronous communication.

Here is a tweet by Adam Grant and Amir Salihefendić explaining the secret behind being successful at remote work:

If your message isn’t clear, you will have to exchange emails back and forth and that would be more time consuming compared to a phone/ zoom call.

“It is more time consuming to explain your unclear message rather than taking out time to write a clear one”

One great way to remove the communication barrier while working remotely is to document everything! Documenting your processes and other important information reduces time, makes things clear and helps the new employees get familiar with the company processes, working patterns and rituals fast.

Having weekly meetings to know each team member’s task and projects they are doing is as important as providing daily updates. Knowing how the work is going throughout the day ensures an efficient flow of work.

2. Time Management For A Remote Worker

Nobody is there to remind you to finish your task or project while you’re working remotely. If you are a procrastinator, remote working can become a nightmare. If you work only when someone is constantly monitoring you, remote work will soon take away your work-life-balance (maybe it already has).

Just like other important skills, time management is the key to be successful at remote working.

When you’re building a new skill, start by mentally preparing yourself for it. Start preparing your mind to be on time for that call, wake up on time, submit that report on time. When you start making space in your mind, you automatically will find ways to get better at it.

Anne-Laure Le Cunff the founder of Ness Labs who is also pursuing a Masters in Neuroscience from Kings Collage London. And who has written more than 200 blogs in one year, says blocking her calendar for specific tasks makes her do more work in the same time.

It is scientifically proven that the human brain cannot multitask. Focusing on one job at a time improves the quality and speed. And it is also scientifically proven that it takes around 20 minutes to refocus.

To get better at time management you can:

  1. Make a daily schedule and block your calendar for each task.
  2. Use the pomodoro technique to focus for 25 minutes only at that one task
  3. Use Trello to keep track of all the tasks you are doing, done and left to do
  4. Make a priority funnel. Starting from the most important tasks first, followed by the least. example- answering the emails
  5. Use a wall calendar or a daily planner where you can tick mark the tasks done

Anne-Laure shares her 5 time management techniques in her blog post:

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Plan ahead
  3. Avoid multitasking
  4. Create mindful routines
  5. Take Breaks

There is the challenge of having team members in different time zones. Make sure you inform your team about your working hours and when they can contact you. The best part of remote work is working at the time you feel the most productive. (I feel the most productive at 4:20 AM).

You have the flexibility of working at your desired time. Make sure your team members know what that time is. And be careful of setting standards for being available 24/7.

3. Interdependence between remote working teams

You are your own boss as a remote worker. Not exactly, but there is nobody physically present to manage you. You set your own goals, deadlines and priorities.
It was different when we were in office and our colleagues could help us with a problem. The IT guy was just one call away and we weren't alone figuring out solutions to a problem.

When you are faced with some challenges as a remote worker, you will have to figure out the solution on your own. Of course you can take help from your teammates. But the truth is, remote workers are not as accessible as office workers.

You will have to set your own routine and schedule for work. It was easy when we went to office and our routine was naturally fixed. Wake up, shower, breakfast, coffee, traffic, work, lunch, work, traffic, home. But when you are working from home, you tend to grab your laptop from the bedside. Only wake up when you are too hungry or need a break.  Being independent also means you follow a routine that suits you and helps you improve your work-life-balance.

With a set morning routine you are more productive, and in the right mindset throughout the day. Following a routine is not only a sign of independent people but also a sign of self motivated people.

Which brings us to the next prerequisite for a remote working employee to be successful at their job.

4. Develop Self-Motivation as a remote worker

In office you get motivation by looking at your co-workers or your manager. A manager’s role is to find what motivates their employees and push them to perform better.

You don’t have that luxury when you are working remotely. If you have a strong will power and can stop yourself from distractions, you are already half way from becoming a successful remote worker.

Know what motivates you, what your working style is, what are your most productive hours and design a schedule accordingly. Put away things and objects that distract you. Try to work in a separate room, away from the noise of television, laundry and kitchen.

Don’t think you are alone in this. Whenever you can’t find the answer to a problem, reach out to your teammates. Working remotely, means you are a strong independent worker along with a strong team player. Which brings us to our next skill needed in a remote worker.  

5. Being a team player as a remote worker

Even if you are not physically present at an office, know that you are a part of a larger picture. The tasks that you do are a contribution to the bigger team project.
As a remote worker, you have be extra collaborative, empathetic and flexible. Your team members might be from different backgrounds. They might not follow the same culture, speak the same language or have the same working style.

Acknowledging that and making that work for the benefit of the entire team is what you should strive for. While communicating digitally with your team, you have to be aware of and sensitive to the differences.

And lastly, the most important skill.

6. Being Tech Savvy while working remotely


Even if your role doesn't require technical tools, technology proficiency is another prerequisite.

Your remote job wouldn't exist if there was no technology. Remote companies thrive on software and tools for their work. You need to be comfortable with trying new technology as a remote worker.

All your work will require tech. You will use different tools for projects, team meetings, post-meeting discussions, team chat, documentation and what not.
Knowing how to use these tools even before you join a team is going to give you brownie points. If you don’t know how to use it, you must have the ability to learn it quickly.

Here is a tweet by the Founder of Buffer (100% remote company) proving remote work is as rewarding as ‘normal office work’.

If you liked this, you might also like Remote Worker’s Playbook For Productivity.