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6 Key Skills for Remote Work

March 30, 2020

Remote work can be an adjustment for you, your team and your colleagues. Humans are social creatures by nature, so removing in-person, face-to-face interaction can present challenges that require us to tap more into a different set of skills than we normally do. In order to remain productive, connected, and successful in today’s workforce it’s important to recognize what it takes to be able to balance your workload in this ever-changing global environment.

Remote work has solidified its place in our modern work environment. According to a 2017-2018 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the last few decades, growth of the digital economy has allowed an increasing number of workers to log in remotely. Nearly 30 percent of American workers, or 41.6 million people, now have the ability.

A recent study by ETS research scientists found that “oral and written communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills are in high demand by employers, with particular emphasis on the pairing of oral and written communication.” Knowing the skills that are in-demand is critical in positioning yourself for success in today’s global economy.

Here are six key skills that can help you find success in a remote working environment:


Physical separation from your team and colleagues, particularly when you’re in a leadership position, requires empathy and a keen level of understanding. Regular check-ins with individual team members to understand what challenges they face being in a remote location, what help they may need, the delicate balance between their work and personal lives as well as connecting and providing solutions to challenges can help to maintain a positive remote working environment.

Collaborative Problem-Solving

Working collaboratively is imperative in order to solve important business challenges. Regardless of your field of work, collaborative problem-solving skills have been identified as necessary for success. Each of your team members likely has a different set of skills you can pull from, but how do you tap into them when you are in different places? Set aside time to brainstorm and talk through proactive solutions, establish the right team norm, and to find the most practical, effective, and efficient method of making key business decisions so that you remain on a consistent page with your colleagues and team members.


In any work environment, particularly remote work, being adaptable and flexible to new ways of doing and thinking are important for success. Remote work offers opportunities to collaborate. Keep an open mindset to how you can adapt your work to fit how others operate so that you can build positive work relationships.

Time Management

With 24 hours in a day, consider how many of them you should be working and how many should be spent on tending to the other needs in your life. While many of us operate on a standard, eight-hour workday, remote work can lead to overwork and long-term burnout. Manage your schedule, time, and expectations each day and prioritize those tasks you need to get done while letting others fall into place as time allows. Work to build a schedule as though you were going into an office and make a ‘to-do’ list that you can cross things off of to maintain momentum and show progress.

Digital Literacy

With remote work comes a reliance on digital communication. Being able to identify, evaluate, and generate information in a digital form is a must-have skill for remote workers. Staying current with digital tools and techniques will help you save time and become more efficient. Dexterity with a range of digital tools and platforms offers multiple channels for remote workers to navigate new technology and stay connected with colleagues and clients.

Oral Communication

Working in a remote environment may cause us to rely more heavily on the written word to get our messages out and across, but oral communication skills are still key when working with others. Video chatting and meetings allow us to rely less on our keyboard and more on interacting with members of our team and organization to help navigate the day. It can be most helpful in talking through ideas, issues and solutions to come to a more efficient conclusion to keep business moving, while continuing to foster a sense of team building, even from afar. Oral communication offers a great way for us to better understand the emotions of our colleagues for positive interactions.

Building these skills will help us stay connected, productive, and engaged in our rapidly evolving digital world. With remote work taking a foothold into how we interact with one another and conduct business, it’s important to be able to navigate these new work environments from home or wherever your work takes you.

Lydia Liu is a senior research director that leads a team of scientists who focus on exploring the academic-to-career pipeline in Research and Development at ETS.