The coronavirus brought on a dramatic shift to remote work. For many companies, this adjustment may be a permanent change. Even if this isn’t the case, many employees still face the prospect of working from home for an indefinite amount of time.
The situation initially created a sense of survival, camaraderie, and even fun challenges like how to purchase quality corporate holiday gifts for a remote workforce.
However, as time has dragged on, many businesses have found that long-term remote work can be challenging, particularly when it comes to human interactions. This has shed an unprecedented amount of light on the importance of soft skills in the modern workplace.
Why Soft Skill Matter More Than Ever
Soft skills have always been important in the workplace. However, in the past, everyone was expected to have a certain degree of basic interpersonal skills. The focus was on training and hard skills, which made candidates stand out from the crowd.
Over time, more individuals have managed to attend college or trade schools. Additionally, technology has made specific skills less and less relevant. The combination of these two forces — increased education and evolving technology — has slowly reduced the need for hard skills as a difference-maker.
Instead, the emphasis has begun to shift back to soft skills. As unique human traits like quality communication and personal initiative have become harder to find, employers have started prioritizing employees who have the soft skills to go the distance.
The need for quality soft skills is important. An individual or even a team that lacks even basic soft skills can quickly come apart at the seams. Procrastination, discipline, collaboration, and quality can suffer. When soft skills are present, it enables an employee to recognize shortcomings and address their behavioral issues.
This shift from focusing on hard skills to soft skills became even more pronounced when the world went remote in early 2020. As employees found themselves working in isolated pockets, they suddenly found the need for simple human interactions and collaboration crucial to remote work success. This has put an even greater sense of importance on soft skills than ever before.
Top Soft Skills for the Remote Workplace
While the need for soft skills is fairly easy to diagnose, understanding what skills to look for can be more challenging. After all, soft skills aren’t typically as definable as result-oriented hard skills or technical skills.
Nevertheless, certain soft skills tend to stand out as key elements to sustained success in a remote workforce.
Communication is essential. Period. End of conversation. Without healthy communication, teams can’t function, instructions can’t be given or followed, and deadlines can’t be met. The ability to interact with one another is, hands down, one of the most important soft skills required in remote work.
The ability to manage one’s time is another essential ingredient to remote work success. This helps employees avoid procrastination and distractions. It also helps with discipline and even the ability to unplug and disconnect from work at the end of the workday.
The skill of negotiation is important for employers and employees alike. It can be used between coworkers, employers, businesses, departments, and so on. The ability to communicate the unique needs of a remote work setting, such as equipment or work-from-home benefits, makes negotiating even more important for a virtual workforce.
The ability to take initiative is part and parcel of the remote work lifestyle. Isolated remote workers must be willing to solve problems and tackle issues without waiting for the direction of others.
This starts with little things like proactively tailoring a resume for remote work applications. Once hired, the ability to show initiative must continue. This will lead to greater results and can help an individual stand out as an energetic and enthusiastic problem solver.
Maintaining a growth mindset is one of the most important soft-skills required in a remote work setting. It’s ground zero for any modern work environment to function. Traits like adaptability and flexibility are essential in keeping up with technology and morphing business practices.
In a traditional, in-person setting an agile expert could help with these natural growth-oriented transitions. However, even if a professional is hired, in a remote setting it’s important that employees feel confident to tackle new areas of growth on their own.
Emotional intelligence is already a crucial soft skill for the modern work environment. The capability to demonstrate things like self-awareness, relationship management, and social awareness are essential to respectful professional interactions.
Now that most employees communicate distantly via video-, audio-, or text-driven mediums, emotional intelligence has become both more challenging and more valuable. Employees and leaders alike must learn to skillfully and respectfully navigate interpersonal interactions without the aid of common in-person factors like facial expressions and body language.
The Importance of Soft Skills in the Remote Work World
Soft skills have never been more important. Remote work presents a series of challenges that only skillful human interactions and capabilities can overcome.
As such, it’s important that employers and employees both take soft skills seriously. The former should look for ways to improve existing soft skills, learn new ones, and highlight them in interviews and on resumes. The latter should learn to identify soft skills (or the lack thereof) in their staff to improve the functionality of their virtual workspaces.
When this can be done, it creates a more productive and positive remote work environment for everyone involved.