The employability skills needed to work from home effectively

As we adjust to new ways of working, with many people now working from home, we explore the skills that are key to successful self-directed working and productive, professional relationships.

After many weeks working in virtual isolation, the novelty for some has certainly worn off but the benefits, such as economical, travel, time and personal wellbeing, which have been realised mean that people need find ways to adjust to a new way of life and make this work for them in the long term.

What issues might be faced when working from home?

For those who aren’t looking at a return to the office once lockdown restrictions begin to lift, or will find themselves working from home more in the future, home working presents its own challenges.

Research has shown that working remotely can come with different challenges, including loneliness, distractions, communication issues and feeling detached from a sense of purpose or belonging that is more readily felt when working in an office amongst colleagues.

Combat loneliness with communication

Key skills to stave off feelings of loneliness will be your ability to communicate. You may not be able to have that face to face conversation you used to rely on where you can take in someone’s non-verbal cues like body language, gestures and eye contact – all things which give us an indication of how well a conversation is going or a message is being received.

Even being able to look across the office and see if someone is busy may be a thing of the past. Picking up the phone to an internal colleague may initially feel alien, but it is often the closest thing we have to life before lockdown. Pairing this with a video call gives that added layer of personality.

If you’re worried about bothering someone or interrupting their flow, you can always send a quick email ahead of the call to check they are free or schedule it in their diary with plenty of notice so you get their full attention.

Collaboration is key

Progress simply cannot grind to a halt because we can’t be in the same room. Group discussions are a big miss and ideas often flow from ideation days and team working. Your ability to collaborate, even in a digital format, will be key to pushing forward with plans and projects.

Your video calls may need perfecting with a group of collaborators. Things that can help include:

  • refining your invite to a select group of people who each bring something to the table
  • a clear agenda which everyone has sight of before the meeting
  • requesting that everyone brings notes and thoughts and have these prepared ahead of time
  • distributing time slots so everyone gets the opportunity to speak
  • allocating time to new ideas formulated throughout the process
  • using a host who can mute, unmute and manage the discussion.

You cannot autonomise creativity

It might feel like the machines are taking over with servers, screens, webcams and new software needed to keep things on track, but there is one thing that computers can’t replace and that is creativity.

Our ability to think and create means that human intuition, emotions and the ability to demonstrate our thoughts and feelings will ensure we’re one step ahead of artificial intelligence.

Alex Wulff wrote about human creativity and computers and summarised that “the machine revolution will instead lead to a society in which anyone can make a living by dreaming and providing creative input to projects of all kinds. The currency of the future will be thought”. Technology may make things easier for us to communicate our creative thoughts, but we will always need our creative selves to begin the process.

Make your own motivation

Distractions have been rife during the lockdown but with schools beginning to reopen, increase in childcare support networks and a lessening state of panic as we smooth the coronavirus curve, we are moving towards a new way of working.

When working from home, it may still be hard to motivate yourself if you’ve previously relied on the morning commute to get yourself psyched up for a day in the office or a coffee and a natter with colleagues to prepare you for the day ahead.

To stay motivated and in the mind set to get to work, ensure your workspace is clear from clutter and, as much as possible, keep the background noise to a minimum so you can fully concentrate. It can be hard when working amongst small children but if you live with other adults, make sure that you are able to be clear about your working hours.

To get yourself in the frame of mind for work, get up as you would normally, get dressed and resist the urge to work in your pyjamas so you feel awake and engaged.

Your diary is your best friend

It’s all on you now and your ability to plan, use your initiative, allocate the right amount of time to tasks, schedule calls and meetings to keep your communication flowing will be essential to not only getting everything done, but your own wellbeing.

Diarise the important things and pieces of work, including times when you cannot take calls or you won’t be available. Set yourself breaks and regularly step away from your desk and make sure you can differentiate between work and home life. Whether that’s stepping out of the room you work in or switching up your makeshift office so it looks like your living room again. Setting boundaries for yourself and others and respecting those that have been set by someone else will help support your relationship with colleagues.

Do your employees or learners have the skills to work from home?

Skills Work is a psychometric employability skills test which identifies your learners’ baseline strengths and weaknesses, against key skills and behaviours desired by employers as identified by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). These skills, including communications, collaboration, creativity, motivation and more are assessed and the result will give you and the learner or employee a baseline from which to work from using a tailored learning plan to help support them as they develop these key skills.

Our team can offer a free demonstration of Skills Work so now is the time to test yourself, your learners or your employees and ensure that you’ve all got the right skills to make working from home work.

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