Top Tech Skills for Remote Workers
Since the pandemic wreaked havoc on traditional ways of work, an estimated 25 to 30% of the workforce now works from home. If you’re lucky enough to still have work, you are probably hunkered down in your home or apartment trying to be productive on your own.
Technology Challenges of Working Remotely
True, living in the technological age has helped allow the transition to working from a home office, saving us commute time and allowing us to be masters of our own schedules. But if this new remote way of working has required tackling new technology, your changeover may come with challenges.
These are uncertain times, and the uncertainty extends to how to stay connected and relevant without any in-person contact. Like everyone, you are likely coming to grips with the idea that things will not get back to normal any time soon. And even “normal” may have a new twist. Office communications, client meetings, networking events, conferences, and customer interaction may all require a technological component into the foreseeable future.
Resolve to embrace technology and hone new skills that will help you survive working from home now, and into the future.
Tech Essentials for Remote Workers
Start with these essentials:
Navigate New Platforms
Challenges associated with the new work-from-home mandates may require quickly getting up to speed with new communication platforms. In particular, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have replaced in-person meetings for the time being. Additionally, document sharing (via Dropbox, Google Docs, and Confluence, to name some) allows the team to collaboratively edit.
First, make sure you have the platforms you need to work out of your home. If you don’t have IT help available and have to navigate new programs on your own, investigate free online tutorials. If you need to pick up more complex technology, certificate programs through online learning centers or community colleges may be an option. But before you spend the time and money on any program, carefully read the course descriptions, check out reviews by previous students, and ask colleagues for recommendations.
The good news is that even veteran employees need to re-educate themselves to stay on top of the changing ways business is conducted in today’s technological world. You will not be alone as you grapple with a technology learning curve.
To Do: Find out the platforms you will need to stay ahead of the curve.
For Extra Credit: See if your company will reimburse you for any courses you need to take.
Beware of taking the isolation of working from home to an extreme. If a coworker or someone in your professional association reaches out with an invitation for a Zoom happy hour, do your best to accept the offer. Then, dress as you would for an in-person networking event (at least from your waist up).
Make an effort to show up in more than your T-shirt or workout clothes. Women, consider wearing a nice pair of earrings or a scarf around your neck. Men, consider wearing a jacket, or if that’s too formal, a nice sweater. You can even make a statement by choosing an attention-getting background — such as a beach or a mountain vista.
Just like meeting in a bar in the old, pre-pandemic days, you can stay for one drink (made in your own kitchen) and then — using the chat feature — bow out. But do make an appearance so that others can see your smiling face. The silver lining with networking events is that, aside from being shorter, you won’t have an issue with drinking and driving.
To Do: Accept all online networking invitations.
For Extra Credit: Dress up a bit.
Master Social Media
Besides LinkedIn, do people in your profession post on social media platforms? If you haven’t already, become familiar with the functions and features of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Some of your coworkers may be on TikTok.
Don’t feel that you have to master all social media at once, which may result in spreading yourself too thin trying to keep them each fresh. Create an account affiliated with your professional life on the platform you prefer, then ask your colleagues, clients, and vendors to “friend” you or add you to their network.
Use social media as a communication tool to stay in touch virtually so that your boss, coworkers, customers, or clients know that you’re engaged in keeping business flowing. Post regular updates on your professional accomplishments for your network to see and send kudos or comment on others’ posts. Keep in mind that social media increases your networking opportunities exponentially.
To Do: Familiarize yourself with one new social media tool and use it to enhance your online social networking.
For Extra Credit: Invite colleagues, clients, and vendors to join your network.
Claim Your Pod
If you are working from home with a spouse who is also working from home and kids who are remotely learning this semester, you may have to re-think your home office situation.
If your home has a Wi-Fi dead zone, or one family member has a larger screen more conducive to Zoom meetings, consider switching workspaces or computers during certain times to keep everyone functioning.
Dens, kitchen nooks, and other spaces may need to be re-purposed so that everyone can feel comfortable as well as connected. Be creative. At the same time, try to give each family member his or her “space” to dream, think, and work.
To Do: Re-purpose certain areas of your home into mini home offices for each member of your family.
For Extra Credit: Be generous about allotting each family member his or her own space to work.
Once you tackle the technology skills to efficiently work from home, you may find that working remotely has its advantages. And, you will have gotten past those hurdles with technology that you may not have mastered if you were still entrenched at the office.