Skills to Sharpen While Working Remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everything on its head—your professional plans included. Even if you recognize how grateful you should be to still have a job, it's still reasonable to be disappointed about the growth opportunities you may be missing. That incredible training seminar in Las Vegas probably isn't happening, and the chance to learn from professional mentors face to face may be limited. But all is not lost. Plenty of skills—hard skills and soft skills—can be perfected while you are working remotely.

Skills to sharpen while remote

Seek out virtual training opportunities

Virtual training has plusses and minuses. True, you miss out on the camaraderie of an in-person experience—but it's a lot less expensive, so you may have access to new and different opportunities. So many conferences and programs have had to pivot to virtual due to the pandemic. Your company might not have been able to afford to send you out of town for training, but a virtual conference could be doable (or even free). This can open the door to new certifications and other skills.

Become a tech guru, enhance your Spanish, etc.

One advantage to working remotely is you may face fewer distractions. Without a cubicle mate to chat with, you may get your work done faster. If that's the case, do not waste your eight hours playing solitaire or sneaking in some Netflix. Look online for free and inexpensive training opportunities. Perhaps this is the time to learn some basic coding or advanced Excel skills. Would it be beneficial to speak conversational Spanish? Invest in an online language program.

Develop a sense of self-discipline

After so many months of remote work, most of us have fallen into some bad habits. A commute across your apartment makes it easy to sleep in, for instance. The more you can stick to a normal work schedule and routine—and change out of your pajamas—the better off you will be. For one thing, the eventual return to the office will be much less painful. For another, every day you make good choices (getting up on time, dressing in actual clothes, sticking to a schedule) helps build your personal discipline. In the long run, this will make it easier to face future challenges.

Polish your project management skills

Employees are forced to be a lot more self-sufficient when their bosses can't simply stop by to offer the next set of tasks. Remote work during a pandemic is tough for both micromanagers and those who need a lot of direction. At some level, work just has to be on the honor system right now, and you have to be the one to make sure it gets done. One way to take initiative, particularly on joint projects, is to follow established project management practices, such as beginning projects with a kickoff meeting, establishing project timelines, and meeting for check-ins.

Prioritize collaboration with colleagues

It is harder to work together when social distancing means we must work apart. There is something so organic about stopping by a colleague's cubicle with a cup of coffee to bounce around ideas. Unfortunately, that natural interaction isn't as feasible right now, so we have to be more intentional about our efforts to collaborate. Focus on using technology for effective collaboration. This could look like having a virtual coffee break to brainstorm, starting a designated Slack channel for on-the-fly feedback, or employing a project management tool such as Trello or Asana to provide instant status updates.

Learn how to maintain proper work-life balance

When your kitchen table is your new desk, and your bed is steps away from your Zoom set-up, it is hard to keep a firm line between work and home. It is easy to slip into bad habits and find yourself working more than eight hours—or letting that eight hours bleed into the evening. Your brain needs a break. Prioritize maintaining boundaries while you are working remotely. Your work the next day will be better for it.

This bizarre season of life will pass. Make sure you have spent your professional time wisely, so you come out stronger on the other end.

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