Employees Need New Skills for Long-Term Remote Work Success: Training Can Help

Employees need a unique skill set to work from home. It’s worth investing in training for them.

An employee uses a laptop at home.

As working from home becomes a medium- rather than short-term situation, new skills are needed.

While working from home is not a new concept, it has never been as relevant or as necessary as during the first months of 2020. If your company is one of the many that adopted a remote work model to cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic, it has likely become clear that the change to work styles will be more lasting and impactful than the earliest projections suggested.

Between uneven and persistently high infection rates across regions, the risk of new spikes and the simple fact that many newly remote positions may never return to the office, it is clear working from home as a concept is here to stay. This means it’s time to invest in ways to maximize your employees’ contributions when they are outside of the office.

Treating remote work as something to be endured for a few weeks and then discarded is no longer an option. There are skills associated with long-term success in this realm, and offering training in these productivity-building abilities, whether optionally or on a mandatory, company-wide basis, is a logical next step for businesses looking ahead at long, uncertain timelines for reentering their spaces.

What Defines a Great Full-Time Remote Employee?

There is a difference between working from home for one week and doing so for months – or permanently. Distractions or difficulties that could be ignored over short periods of time become more consequential when employees have to deal with them every day for a long time. Part of home productivity is tied to creating a functional, distraction-free workspace in the house, something team members should strive to do if they are looking ahead to a long remote stint.

The Society for Human Resource Management recommends creating physical distinctions between living space and working space, as well as psychologically turning on and off the parts of the mind associated with being productive. It’s easier to create a work-life balance when an employee can go home from the office at the end of the day: Work is done at work and relaxing is done at home. Industry author Bryan Robinson told SHRM that effective remote workers will put away their professional devices at the end of the day and not allow themselves to worry about unfinished tasks during their off hours: Spending time relaxing is vital to avoid burnout and loss of productivity.

Logging off at the end of the day isn’t the only key to avoiding burnout as a longtime remote worker. Business Insider also recommended that employees take short breaks at regular intervals each day, with a 30-minute stop at lunch. Leadership coach Tamika Pumphrey told Business Insider organizing the day this way, and using digital calendars to alert other team members when they are and aren’t free, can put employees into a productive rhythm. Since this pattern may not come naturally when working from home, it’s important for employees to enforce the boundaries for themselves.

There is more to the psychology of working from home than just breaking down the day into manageable pieces. Remote.co’s Brie Reynolds explained to Business Insider that it pays for employees to assume the best of their co-workers’ motives and sincerity. When all meetings are held via web cameras and there is no chance to meet causally in a lunchroom and ask for clarity or an update about an ongoing project, it is easy to jump to conclusions and assume other team members are not acting in an employee’s best interests. Reynolds urged remote staff to assume work mistakes are made honestly rather than maliciously until proven otherwise, which can help everyone move forward and get the project done.

An employee uses a tablet at home.Working from home comes with unique requirements and demands specific areas of focus.

What Goes Into Effective Modern Training Programs?

Giving your team refresher training on the finer points of remote work is possible because employee education has gone digital. Today’s interactive digital courses, distributed online and prominently featuring video content, are accessible anywhere, at any time. Without the need for in-person instructors, or even for all participants to log on at the same time, it’s simple to assign either optional or mandatory new training sessions to your employees.

By learning how remote work is unique and picking up the skill set they need to thrive in this environment, employees can settle into routines to help them stay engaged, happy and productive, no matter how long they have to stay away from the office. Considering the uncertain timeline and possibility that some areas may have to re-enter a lockdown state, this could be important for the future of the organization.

Providing training modules dealing with employees’ real working conditions demonstrates that you are aware of how they’ve had to change their routines, and that you care about their success. By giving your team the tools to work effectively from a distance, you are creating a better situation for the near future and potentially boosting long-term engagement and loyalty.

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