Top Skills Employers Want In Remote Employees

November 11, 2015 | By | 5 Replies More
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Photo courtesy of Joshua Earle

The most valuable skills for remote workers, and why employers want them



The job ad is usually your first introduction to a potential employer, and where you learn what a position is about. But an ad won’t tell the full story. For example, why does a job posting stress that candidates have particular personal skills? And, why are those particular skills so important?


RemoteWork Source reached out to employers experienced in managing remote staff to find out which personal skills they look for in candidates; and more so, why those skills are essential. At first glance, the required skills look similar to what any employer would want. But what they mean for a remote employee sometimes differs from an employee working onsite.


According to the employers we spoke to, these are the top skills employers want from remote employees.



The ability to work autonomously

“Working from home requires independent thinking along with self-discipline, reliability, and self-sufficiency,” says Rebecca Martin, former manager and talent acquisition for CloudSource, one of the world’s largest contact center services.


To employers of remote staff, working independently means doing a job without needing constant feedback, yet still knowing when to reach out.


It also means double checking your work before submitting it to avoid losing valuable time.


“When a remote employee is not vigilant about checking their own work for errors it greatly increases the amount of time spent going back and forth—usually on issues that should be obvious. Situations like these can easily become a real source of lost time in a project,” explains James Vannelli, founder of Action3Media, a former Canadian-based web design and marketing firm.



Being able to communicate effectively

Good communication is a must for any job. Yet when a supervisor or colleague is miles away, it presents special challenges. Since remote workers communicate mostly through email, text, or telephone, this can create miscommunication and cause lost valuable time.


Communication must be timely and clear. Even if you write clearly, there’s no guarantee readers will understand your intended meaning. Clarify everything before continuing with your work.


It is crucial, says Vannelli, that you are “intuitive and not too shy to ask the right questions when work is assigned.”


Knowing which method of communication to use at what time is another valuable skill, adds Kimberly Bringas, HR & Culture Enthusiast at Olark, a leading live chat solution for websites. Therefore, she explains, you should not only be able to communicate in writing, but also “know when a conversation should be in chat, Skype, or face-to-face.”



Team Player

Effective communication is a key part of developing a team and forming strong bonds. Employers emphasize that being a team player is important even if you never meet your colleagues in person. This can be difficult not only because of distance; but working alone can mislead you into thinking you’re in control and don’t have to collaborate with others.


That’s not the case, cautions Olark’s Bringas. A remote employee must be “self-directed enough to carry out their day-to-day work, but make the initiative to collaborate with others. With remote work comes a lot of autonomy, but this person does need to balance being a team player. No lone rangers.”


Lee Fuller, co-founder and CEO of FlauntDigital, a virtual web design and marketing agency, contends that team collaboration is one of the biggest challenges for remote employees.


Says Fuller: “We encourage employees to engage with other team members as much as possible to build a camaraderie. [T]his is key to building a successful remote team.”


Without question, good teamwork, like all healthy relationships, takes effort.


“With remote work you lack so many cues such as body language, tone.” explains Bringas, “so our most successful Olarkers are ones who are proactive about reaching out to teammates.” It is crucial to understand others’ perspectives and not try to push your own across to everyone else.



Excellent time management

With no immediate supervisor to nudge you every so often, managing time well is a must. While some companies do enforce a strict schedule, most don’t.


“Although there is no 9-5 environment at Flaunt Digital,” says Fuller, “we do need employees to be aware that clients need work delivered by a set date and on time. It is up to the employees how their working day looks; but it is important that when required they can get their work in for a deadline.”


Counter to some claims that working from home means being your own boss, remote working requires the same flexibility for your employer that they allow you. In fact, depending on your position, you may need to adjust your day to suit the needs of your job.


“Working from home does not mean you set your own schedule—at least not with our company,” states Martin of CloudSource.


Dr. Linnie Carter, president and CEO of public relations and marketing firm Linnie Carter & Associates, admits that work-from-home flexibility often means working nontraditional hours.


“Working remotely allows for a great deal of flexibility. [However], that means if you use daytime hours to run personal errands, then you must work evening hours to complete the work.”




Any job in which you want to exceed requires certain personal skills, along with the essential education and work experience. But working remotely from your team and employer calls for extra care and consideration.


Unlike working onsite, where in-person meetings make it clear what communication method will be used, and open floor plans allow everyone to bounce ideas off each other within a matter of seconds, remote working demands you work through these issues, often with no obvious cues.


To increase your chances of getting hired for a remote position, keep in mind the personal skills employers want. Consider why these skills are so important. And remember, working remotely does not mean working alone.


Your turn: What personal skill have you found most helpful when working remotely?

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Category: Communication, Productivity, Telecommuting

About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia is a resume writer and LinkedIn profile expert. She is also a pioneer in remote work, and has been researching and writing about remote work since the early 1990's. You can follow her on LinkedIn, for resume tips, LinkedIn insight, and general career help.

Comments (5)

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  1. Hi Savannah,
    Thank you for your feedback. Teamwork is important no matter what the job, but I agree is can also be a big distraction. Knowing when to gather ’round the virtual water cooler and when not to is important.
    I’m willing to bet your employer is giving you more of a heads up rather than a threat when he/she let you know they can read your chats. As long as you’re not chatting during call times, I wouldn’t let that stop you from bonding with your coworkers. Being a part of a team is very important, even to employers.
    I appreciate your comment. Have a great day,

  2. savannah says:

    I am a remote employee professional and just wanted to give a thanks for the info given. It was a great refresher. I do believe in the teamwork theme of things. Like we can chat with our co workers if there is enough time but I don’t chat with others.Sometimes it can be a distraction when taking inbound calls and average handle time requires 100 percent attention to the customer.The main reason I don’t use chat to communicate with my team is because my supervisor said we can see everything you do and say . That just sounded so threatening I chose not to ever use chat.It was the way he said it ..Kinda made me feel like I could get fired at anytime for saying something or asking questions about stuff that I wasn’t sure on.Just wanted to put my 2 cents. Thanks

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