As the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold of how we live our lives, a lot of us have been embracing a new way of conducting our jobs (and our lives). And with this massive and sudden change, we are being forced to adapt and develop new ways to be more efficient at our professions. Here is a list of the top three skills that you can hone during this unprecedented period.
Now you’re probably thinking – ok, yeah we know that “working remotely” is a skill that we have to develop. What I am talking about here is really being able to separate work from home. Those of us who have been working remotely for years can jump into this new situation much easier than our former office-bound counterparts who are now suddenly being forced to find a place in their homes to conduct their work full time. The skill that really needs to be developed here is being able to be “at work” while you’re at home. That means mentally commuting to your workspace and getting into “work mode” while you are physically in a space you previously enjoy in your off hours. One of the biggest challenges to working remotely effectively is being able to mentally adjust yourself to focus on your tasks while not being distracted by the other comforts of working at home. If you can, dedicate a room or space in your home to be your new “office”. Try to not spend time in your “office” when you are not at work. Do your best to be able to flip the switch in the morning and in the evening to toggle from “work mode” to “home mode”.
As we all begin to work remotely, communications become more important than ever (but really, when were they never super important). We begin to rely on non-verbal messages more than ever such as email, instant messaging and team posts. As conversations happen over non-verbal mediums, the degree to which messages are interpreted correctly begins to decrease. A skill that is an absolute must-have for a successful remote-based team is the ability to develop and interpret concise communications effectively and efficiently. Time spent on IM conversations can vastly increase as well as the time spent trying to unravel the web of communications received in an IM conversation that may or may not lead to the clear understanding of the points made during the discussion. My general rule of thumb is that if you have to go over two rounds of emails or if your IM conversation at any point gets heated or confusing – pick up the phone to help sort the issue out. Get on a video chat once in a while too – you might be surprised how much that helps your communication skills during these times.
Developing and Demonstrating Empathy
Depending on your own personal and work situation, you may or may not be greatly affected by what’s going on out there. And if you’re not, there’s a chance you may not have a strong appreciation for the gravity of the situation that many others are going through. Even for those who have not been impacted health-wise by the virus, many have had their lives turned upside down – working from home, kids and spouse home all the time, stressed-out co-workers, family members unemployed. There are a vast number of difficult situations out there and it’s important for those of us who have been largely (and very luckily) unaffected by this situation to remember to demonstrate empathy towards those that we work with (customer and co-workers alike) who are going through more difficult times now due to the pandemic. A little empathy will go a long way.