Working from home requires a different skillset
What will the world look like after the COVID-19 pandemic? How will it shape the work and labour markets? - these are the questions popping up more and more, as slowly economies are opening up from lockdown and people are trying to position themselves in this new reality.
We don't expect the days of working from home to end once the pandemic has passed. Some job analysts think the remote-working environment will continue to thrive long after the coronavirus diminishes. Some of my friends don't even have office space anymore.
Remote working has been a growing trend in the workforce in recent years. However, until now, it has not been widely adopted. The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent social isolation measures have caused companies to explore remote working options and implement collaborative tools in an attempt to sustain their business through the crisis.
If you follow LinkedIn and other job portals you may notice the increase in remote/telecommute/home-based/etc. positions offered, and more recruitment companies specialised in hiring remote workers.
What special skill set do you need to get this job?
After analysing job adds, some articles and based on my own experience, I have come up with an ‘international remote work skills set’.
Intentional and thoughtful communication
Keeping in touch when you work remotely is absolutely critical—think email, online chat, video meetings, and maybe phone calls and text messages, too. Non-verbal communication is minimal, so you must always assume good intention and seek multiple perspectives. When you work as a remote team member across timezones and around significant cultural differences, it can be a challenge.
When you work remotely, you still need to be successful at connecting with co-workers and your boss in ways that will maintain these relationships. While telecommuting usually means working at home alone, it doesn't mean you're not part of a larger, often international team. That means, fulfilling your duties well and on time, being accountable to other team members and keeping them informed. You may have co-workers from around the world. This makes for exciting and dynamic work culture, but it can also present problems because language, communication style, culture, and traditions vary around the world. Telecommuters must be aware of and sensitive to these differences.
Comfort in Learning and Using Digital Tools
Even if your job isn't mainly a technical one, you definitely need to feel comfortable with both software and hardware as a remote worker: project management programmes, video conferencing, and company-specific digital platforms. Each company has its own tools and methods for getting work done and keeping workers engaged, so you need to feel at ease in learning new digital resources.
Flexibility is the most commonly mentioned benefit of remote work. However, it requires extraordinary self-organisation skills on the one hand, and on the other hand - you need to stay flexible, mainly when you cooperate with people working in different time zones. When you work from home, you don't have co-workers and bosses physically near you to remind you to stay on task and meet your deadlines. You've got to keep yourself on track, and you have to be more disciplined in your organisational and time management skills. You need to develop your daily routine without forgetting about taking breaks. Additionally, you need to organise your workspace on your own and take care of ensuring a proper Wi-Fi connection and the right equipment.
As a remote worker, you naturally work on your own much of the time and don’t have office mates to turn to for some quick help. Also, without face-to-face contact and a traditional office environment, it can be challenging for some people to stay excited about the work they're doing remotely. Remote employees need to be proactive and take the initiative to get things done without being constantly reminded, monitored, or pinged for progress updates, so you often need to push projects forward on your own.
So, how can you develop international remote working skills? The first step is to identify the skills you need to learn, you have already made a start by reading this article. The next one would be to take part in internships, participate in new projects, etc. Internships provide a safe environment for on-the-job training and learning, and this is one of the most effective ways of developing new competencies. Additionally, IAESTE remote internships, through our holistic approach and combination of intercultural and professional experience, provide you with a comfortable learning environment.
You can count on your supervisor coaching and mentoring. IAESTE members - your new international friends, are also there to guide you through intercultural challenges and to introduce you to your hosting country's culture. Everything happens online, of course, there are some limitations, but on the other hand, it gives you also the flexibility and you can keep your current life.
IAESTE has been a source of valuable work experience for over 70 years. Now, as well as the IAESTE world-renowned internship exchange programme, connecting students and employers and being a source of the cultural enrichment, we have developed an IAESTE Remote Internships programme.
What makes us unique? Besides focusing on developing technical skills, we put much emphasis on developing transferable cross-cultural remote working competencies, that can be used in any employed role. We provide intercultural training and international networking and assist both trainees and employers throughout the internship. This can be a great entry experience to an internship abroad.