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4 Skills to teach employees to empower them to work remotely

The concerns over COVID-19 have grown over the past few weeks, with many companies asking their staff to work from home.

As governments continue to order most businesses to close and individuals to self-quarantine, growing numbers of executives and managers are concerned that sales and revenue may decline. This is particularly challenging for organizations that haven’t embraced remote working before.

Read more: Working from home – good for both companies and employees

To empower employees and make the work-from-home experience less overwhelming, here are the top skills you should teach them.

1. Productivity

With most companies shutting down their operations because of COVID-19 and others downsizing, most employees consider the possibility of working from home to be a privilege. As a result, remote workers end up developing work from home guilt, which is feeling guilty for not using the opportunity to do more.

To overcome the guilt, most start overloading themselves with tasks, which is a recipe for burnout. The solution to this issue is to create a to-do-list and prioritize tasks.

How do you go about that?

Consolidate tasks into one source

To-dos come from different sources; a boss sends an email, the IT department sends a Slack message, a coworker asks for a favor through Skype, and there’s a bill in the mail waiting to be sorted.

To prioritize the to-do list correctly, remote employees need to create a master to-do list, which comprises all the tasks from all the sources.

Before prioritizing the workload, they need to find a place to keep the master to-do-list. This place could be a paper notebook, email inbox, a phone memo app, or a to-do list app.

Analyze the task list

After consolidating all tasks into a master to-do-list, the next step is to review every task and do any of the following:

  • Do – complete a task right now if it’s urgent and important. In other words, consider completing a task that, if not completed within a few hours, may have a serious negative impact. For example, handle client work before internal projects.
  • Defer – move it to another day, especially if it’s not urgent.
  • Delegate – assign the task to another person.
  • Delete – remove the task from the list of tasks, particularly if it has been on the list forever that you hardly get around to, or tasks that offer little value than the effort used to accomplish them.

2. Communication skills

Even when all team members share the same room, effective communication is still a challenge. So, when everyone is working from a separate location and time zone, it becomes even more difficult.

It's crucial to ensure that all your remote employees know how to communicate effectively and can collaborate and engage with other remote workers.

Read more: How to enable innovation and creativity in remote teams

Employees may use a couple of apps to communicate well when working remotely. Examples of such applications are:

  • Slack – The tool integrates more than 1500 apps, making file access and sharing a breeze. With Slack, you can automate mundane tasks, organize important files, and exchange information easily and quickly.
  • Zoom – This cloud-based communication app allows remote teams to carry out video and voice conferencing, document collaboration, and real-time text chat.
  • Skype for Business – The dynamic tool allows you to host business meetings. You can also share screens, exchange files, and record meetings.
  • Google Meet – This makes it easy for someone to join video calls via link sharing. It has a lightweight user interface for effortless video conferencing.
  • Google Drive – It’s effective for creating, collaborating, and sharing text files, presentations, spreadsheets, and more.
  • Serene – Helps to cut out any distractions, remain focused and complete tasks faster.
  • Toggl – Both teams and individuals can use this tool to track time.

You can choose a few of these tools and introduce them to your remote staff. If some employees aren’t conversant with a specific app, it’s essential to put together a tutorial that shows them how it works. You can opt for sharing a YouTube tutorial if that exists or create a short learning module with the company LMS.

Read more: The Micro-first Model for business training

3. Self-discipline

Working from home is quite paradoxical. On the one hand, remote employees are more productive (at least for some types of jobs); on the other hand, remote work can also be challenging because of distractions. According to a recent survey, watching television while working is one of the biggest distractions that remote workers face. Other distractions are handling personal tasks such as online shopping or paying bills while working, checking social media, and more.

Thus, to avoid distractions, it’s important to set boundaries and control the working environment. Remote workers can achieve that in the following ways:

  • Make everyone at home, including the kids, know that you’re working, so they don’t disturb you.
  • Disable social media notifications using apps like Offtime, Freedom, or AppBlock.
  • Use a time-management method like the Pomodoro technique, where you work for a specific period, such as 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break.

4. Problem-solving skills

When people are working from the same physical office, everything can run smoothly; if anyone runs into a problem, they can seek help from colleagues or call in someone from the IT department, for example.

But this changes when working remotely. Technical issues can arise when someone is working on a project, and this can slow down everything.

That’s why remote workers need strong problem-solving skills so they can know how to figure out solutions to almost any problem they face while working.

When working on a task, it’s common to experience disruptions that can slow down their progress and delay delivery times. Frequent disruption results from malfunctioned equipment. It’s vital to know how to troubleshoot such issues. If their computer slows down, for example, remote employees should know what to do to speed the computer’s operating system up.

Problem solvers know how to use the available information to fix any problems and get work done on time. They may make mistakes occasionally, but they won’t repeat a mistake.

To help your team know how to solve different problems, convene a meeting on Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts to identify common problems that may arise while working remotely and the possible solutions. You can put together a couple of videos and a knowledge base where people can run to when faced with difficulty.

Solving a problem on time not only speeds up the delivery time but also slows your heart rate and frees your time to attend to other essential aspects of the business.

Wrapping up

For your remote team to be productive, you should teach them to prioritize tasks, use effective communication apps, manage distractions, and solve problems effectively. With these skills, they’ll be more productive wherever they are.