Maybe you know how to build an entire website or write a highly technical whitepaper. Or maybe you excel at being a remote teacher or you’re a remarkably efficient virtual assistant. Whatever makes you great at what you do is usually the result of education, hard work, and experience. But that’s not all that employers are looking for in the remote world. Soft skills for remote workers, which combine communication, listening, interpersonal, and other skills, are highly prized in the virtual community. Some are inherent in people; others need cultivation.
Either way, the importance of soft skills cannot be understated. Without them, you’re lacking a major tool you need to perform, excel, and impress. So if you want to make yourself a more attractive worker or you haven’t heard back after an interview, here are some of the top soft skills you should practice regularly to make yourself a more well-rounded remote worker.
Use the guide below to discover the top soft skills, as well as explore examples of each type.
In a professional setting, communication refers to the ability to convey ideas and information comprehensively to help facilitate discussion, solve problems, and make decisions. Communication includes speaking, writing, and presenting to both individuals and groups in formal and informal settings. One of the critical elements of communication is understanding your audience (i.e., who you’re speaking to or writing for) and then tailoring your words, style, and tone to help improve comprehension. Another is knowing how to approach a variety of situations and the tone, words, and body language to use during each. This could be a casual cubicle conversation, a potential conflict with a coworker, a client who is pushing boundaries, or a coworker’s retirement celebration, and more.
When will I use this skill? Well-planned or thought-out communication is vital during conversation and instruction. It is also a critical tool when writing emails or creating a campaign for content marketing.
- Basic writing skills (emails and messages)
- Online presentation and speaking
- Visual communication
- Writing reports and proposals
Coordination is the ability to work with others to accomplish a goal or task. Remote teams across different time zones need excellent coordination skills to ensure congruency among workers and to deliver work products accurately and in a timely manner.
Learn the typical etiquette for teamwork, and generally speaking, try to listen more than you speak. Work on keeping your desk materials and your digital work organized, and meet deadlines on time or early. These traits will help you to land jobs that are available at almost all companies or organizations.
- Create team agendas
- Manage project deadlines
- Organize staff meetings
- Work cross-functionally with other departments
As a child, how many times did you hear the adage, “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated,” or “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” Not much has changed since childhood. Courtesy for others remains a vital aspect of business communication and relationship building.
Individuals who demonstrate courtesy will do well in diplomatic or customer-facing roles, where one must also be polite regardless of how frustrating a situation may become. Courtesy also involves hospitality, manners, and kindness, so it is absolutely critical in careers focused on fundraising and certain areas of business, which involve frequent wining and dining.
- Be on time and punctual
- Be dressed correctly for the event, even in a virtual setting
- Communicate with others instead of passive-aggressive or despondent behavior
- Maintain a level of respect for coworkers
Detail-oriented people are observant and seek to understand causes, map concepts, and meticulously complete their work. They notice changes, deviations, and trends, and they perform thorough research and analysis. In a world of big data, employers seek professionals who can sift through the noise, quickly detect anomalies, and organize information logically. Many organizations also rely on their teams to follow instructions accurately and precisely, and spot errors before they have harmful effects.
These jobs require precision and a meticulous nature. You may be removing a brain tumor, auditing a company, or typing a word-for-word court transcript. Regardless of the job, detail-oriented people tend to avoid multitasking, understand their specific position, break down larger projects into smaller ones, and proofread. Intentionally implement some of these behaviors in your life, and you too can become more detail oriented.
Attention to detail is your ability to produce emails, proposals, and final projects without missing any important aspects or making sloppy mistakes. Getting organized, reducing distractions, and taking breaks will all help improve your attention to detail. In addition, you should review any project or email before sending it to the appropriate person. This will help you avoid everything from glaring omissions to minor spelling errors.
- Attention to detail
- Great listener
- Strong communicator
In our increasingly connected and technologically advanced workplaces, things change quickly. Companies that can respond to such changes and adapt are more likely to survive and thrive than their stubborn counterparts. Since a company is only as good as its people, employers need workers who react positively to change and approach unforeseen events as challenges that invoke growth. To portray this flexibility or learn to be flexible, intentionally find the positive in every change, and try to view creating solutions for challenges as a strategy game, rather than a burden. Jobs that greatly value flexibility include incident response, technical support, project coordination, and more.
- Helping coworkers with assignments
- Positive attitude
- Taking on work even if you don’t have to for the greater good of the team
- Working different hours or projects if need be (within reason)
6. Integrity and Professionalism
Professional integrity includes showing up on time, doing the very best work you can, and communicating honestly. This includes speaking and acting morally and ethically, even when it’s not the easy move to make. For example, someone with integrity tells their employer when their payroll check was $500 too much. A sales person with integrity would avoid fudging the numbers and report the correct data to management, even if it could mean they’re out of a job.
Integrity isn’t so much learned as it demonstrated. Your best chance of letting future employers know you have integrity is by keeping a record of times when you’ve “done the right thing,” despite preference, or publicly (even if it’s quietly) standing up for something you believe to be most ethical. Google, 3M, and the Mayo Clinic are all companies desiring employees with impressive integrity.
- Conflict resolution
- Leading by example
- Only make promises you can keep
Listening and communication go hand-in-hand. It’s important to listen to others with the intention to comprehend, rather than make assumptions. The same goes for carefully reading emails, reports, and letters. Keen listening skills help professionals avoid confusion, misinterpretations, and conflict. When you listen first, you help people feel heard, learn about a situation, and are presented with new ideas that may spark a solution in your mind. As you choose to listen more without pre-developing a response while someone is talking or daydreaming, you become more perceptive, and it becomes easier to teach, translate, serve, lead, and negotiate. Practice listening first and fully with family and friends. Soon, those skills will transfer to work, too. Companies such as A Place for Mom, InVision, and LanguageLine Solutions stress their desire for employees who are good listeners.
- Build trust
- Demonstrate concern and empathy
- Give verbal affirmations
- Offer support
- Strong use of nonverbal skills and communication (nodding, eye contact, etc.)
Organization doesn’t necessarily imply a squeaky-clean desk or perfectly structured work method. It does, however, mean that you have systems in place to effectively manage your time, documents, finances, thoughts, ideas, and communications. Organization is especially important for management positions and roles that collect and process a lot of data. However, everyone can benefit from a bit of order to create efficient workflows and more accurate, high-quality work products. If you struggle with organization, set aside 10 minutes at the end of each day to make sure everything on your desk is returned to its proper place, any new information is marked on your calendar, and your digital workspace follows a system as well.
Organization is another hallmark of the ideal remote worker. Without a supervisor around to keep you on your toes, maintaining an organized workspace and workflow falls entirely on your shoulders. However, a tendency to be disorganized doesn’t have to hinder your aspirations as a remote worker.
Instead, use all the tools at your disposal in both the real-life and digital worlds. For instance, G Suite and Dropbox are excellent resources for keeping all your correspondence, spreadsheets, and databases in order. In addition, Trello, Slack, and Basecamp provide real-time communication and team collaboration tools right at your fingertips. At home, use a few hacks, organizational tools, or a filing system to keep your desk decluttered and organized.
- Collaboration with other departments
- Follow standard procedures and policies
- Home office layout skills
- Project planning
- Use of time management techniques or tools
Employers want upbeat individuals who can roll with the punches, take failure in stride, and continue to strive for the best despite all obstacles. Therefore, the more positivity you bring to a team, the more likely you’ll get hired. In fact, Jobvite found that enthusiasm was the third most important trait that positively influenced recruiters’ hiring decisions in 2017. Now, you still need industry knowledge and technical skills related to your profession, but in a large pool of qualified candidates, a little enthusiasm can go a long way.
- Humor at the right time
- Trustworthy and honest
You may think that only sales and marketing roles require persuasive traits, but all workers in any occupation can benefit from persuasion skills. For example, at some point, you may need to convince your manager to purchase new software, hire another employee, or give you a promotion. You might also help proposal teams land new clients or assist grant writing teams to apply for funding. In either case, persuasion involves crafting compelling arguments to gain new business, attract clients, and influence company decisions.
Employers also seek professionals who can inspire customers to purchase products and rally employees to adopt policies and protocols. Careers where honing your persuasion skills is extremely important include sales, marketing, business development, and some areas of law enforcement.
- Accept different viewpoints while giving your own
- Agree to a commitment
- Sales skills
11. Social and Interpersonal/Team Player
Employers generally seek nice people who can work well with others. Therefore, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you should be able to express compassion for others, offer assistance, and participate in conversations to some degree.
Keep in mind, in the remote workspace, nonverbal communication is limited but still very powerful. For instance, the use of emojis, typing on the keyboard during phone conversations, your tone of voice, and placement of all-caps and exclamation points can influence a listener or reader and alter the mood of an interaction.
Thanks to the ability to add diversity and include all types of workers, employers have begun to value virtual teams. As a result, chances are you’ll still have to play the role of a teammate.
The downside is that you can’t lean over your cubicle or meet in a conference room to be a remote team player. You’ll have to send emails, make phone calls, and request video conferences to foster teamwork. Forging these relationships are more complicated as a telecommuter. But with a vested effort, you can create a team atmosphere that your employer will notice.
- Establishing interpersonal relationships
- Dealing with office politics, difficult personalities, etc.
- Giving and accepting feedback
- Helping others when the situation arises
12. Strategic and Critical Thinking
If the details bog you down, consider your strengths at the other end of the spectrum. Companies need strategic thinkers who can imagine scenarios, generate outside-the-box ideas, and create plans to actualize their visions. Thus, if you relish in the abstract and can align business objectives with innovative, forward-thinking ideas, employers will be lining up at your door (or your inbox) with requests for interviews. To improve your strategic thinking, first work on your listening, participate in problem-solving games, and ask leadership to include you in goals and business objective meetings, so you can learn how to better yourself.
Whether you’re analyzing data, putting together a proposal, or working on a project, critical thinking is essential. The ability to examine a problem methodically and systematically and devise a solution relieves stress from your employer. This also gives them time to work on other aspects of the business. In addition, your critical thinking skills can lead to innovation and creativity that presents solutions to future problems or a more streamlined way to do your job.
- Creativity and outside the box thinking
- Critical observation
- Logic vs. emotional thinking
- Rolling with the punches in different scenarios
- Willingness to learn or change methods
13. Conflict Resolution
You might think that working from home would lower your chances of a conflict. However, the lack of tone in emails or messages may result in some sticky situations. In these instances, conflict resolution becomes a necessary telework soft skill. The ability to resolve conflicts via email or phone calls is an art form. You don’t get the ability to meet the other party face-to-face, making the situation more difficult. But a friendly email and giving people the benefit of the doubt is a powerful way to build beneficial relationships and keep communication civil.
- Hear both sides of the story
If you complete a task and dive right into the next one without requiring oversight or direction from your boss, you have one of the most desired telework soft skills out there. Being a self-starter goes hand-in-hand with motivation and job understanding, giving you the edge over other candidates who need constant instruction. Employers won’t have to continually monitor your progress, freeing up more time for them to do other tasks and giving you more independence to boot.
- Increase efficiency
- Project management
- Tackle projects without supervision
- Time management
As a remote worker, you won’t have the luxury of asking a coworker, the IT department, or the office manager if you run into problems. A software, project, or equipment glitch requires you to take action. You may have to troubleshoot your printer or use online tutorials to fix any hiccups along the way. Don’t think of it as a hindrance. In hindsight, you’ll find that you’ve built yourself into a well-rounded worker and a jack of all trades.
- Learn workflows and what needs to be done
- Operational efficiency
- Take initiative
- Time management
- Workflow management
Working independently goes hand-in-hand with self-sufficiency. As a remote worker, you are responsible for meeting expectations and finishing projects without the aid of colleagues or other parties. This requires a certain amount of realistic confidence in your abilities. Even if you are asked to undertake new tasks or projects, you can still have confidence in your ability to work independently by making sure to secure any additional information and resources you may need to refer to if necessary.
- Trust and honesty
- Work unsupervised
Telecommuting is a system of balance. You no longer have a traditional figure to look over your shoulder or manage your affairs. Unfortunately, this lack of oversight may provide the temptation to goof off or procrastinate. Self-management is the answer to this problem. By managing your workload each day, you can complete tasks on time. Otherwise, you might find yourself working a 12-hour day to complete an 8-hour project.
- Balance workload
- Time management
18. Turning It Off
Turning it off, or clocking out, is the remote worker’s way of “going home” from the office. While this may not seem like a quintessential soft skill, clocking out is crucial to maintaining a work-life balance. Answering an extra email or finishing up some work outside of your predetermined business hours isn’t always a bad practice. Just make sure to not let it snowball out of control. Like you would in a normal office, shut down your home office for the day and leave any outstanding tasks until tomorrow.
- Time management
- Work life balance
19. Strong Work Ethic
A “good enough” attitude doesn’t work as a remote employee. Without the work ethic to go above and beyond expectations, you won’t earn the trust of your employer. A strong work ethic not only demonstrates your ability to stay on task, but also showcases your dependability, integrity, and trustworthiness on the job. Without it, you don’t have the extra edge to put you over other deserving job candidates.
- Asking what needs to be done
- Never having idle time
- Meeting deadlines
Nearly all your work as a telecommuter requires tech-savviness. Regardless of your role, you’ll need to feel comfortable with all the hardware and software in your home office. While you may have learned some of these aspects during your prior jobs, showing the initiative to learn new technical skills is in high demand. From creating a simple website with WordPress to attaching documents in PDF format so they’re easily opened by Mac or Windows users, being tech-savvy is one of the most important soft skills for remote workers.
- Critical Thinking
- Problem solving
- Willingness to learn
Even if you’re not managing a team, leadership is a virtual soft skill that’s attractive to a wide range of employers. Leadership goes above and beyond managing other individuals to making key decisions, resolving critical situations, and handling difficult customers and clients. This skill can also lead to new job opportunities such as management positions or more responsibility within the company.
- Conflict management and resolution
- Deal making
- Decision making
- Discussing difficult topics
- Project management
- Resolving issues
22. Time Management
Time management is an all-encompassing telework soft skill. To successfully manage your time, you’ll need to combine productive work habits with your individual strengths. Although some remote workers have this ability as an inherent gift, building your time management skills is achievable. Plan your day, set a work routine, and schedule your downtime to become a time-management phenom.
- Strategic planning
- Stress management
Getting Some Additional Education and Applying Yourself
Even if you lack some of the soft skills mentioned above, that doesn’t mean that you can’t develop them. Instructional books, online courses, and job coaches are all helpful with building a strong foundation of soft skills for remote workers. Moreover, you should never feel afraid to ask your bosses or coworkers about your strengths and weaknesses. If you have mutual respect, they should provide you with some aspects that could use some work, as well as others that you excel at. By combining this advice and improving your soft skills as part of your professional development, you have all the makings of a hall-of-fame-level telecommuter.
What are some soft skills for remote workers that you think are absolutely essential? How did you develop these skills, and what were the results in the virtual workplace? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!
Join Virtual Vocations Today!
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked telecommuting jobs database. Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened telecommuting jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background. Register for free or contact us for more information on our service guarantee.
Check out our menu of Career Services provided by our team of certified professionals, including resume and career coaching services for remote jobseekers. Resume assessments and writing, LinkedIn profile enhancement, and cover letter writing are available to maximize the success of your remote job applications. Discounts on all services available to subscription members, become one now.