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Stand out with soft skills when seeking a remote job

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When thinking about the skills required for remote work, technological skills and digital literacy tops the list. However, soft skills: interpersonal relations, communication skills, active listening, and time management are equally important.

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But why talk about this now?  Because it seems like everyone wants a remote job and may have been led to believe that technological knowledge trumps all. But, does it? In January 2020, Indeed reported that 2.5% of its job listings were for remote work. By September 2021, the percentage of job openings for remote jobs jumped to 7.5%. Presently, Linkedin calculates that 14% of its job vacancies posted on its platform specified remote work. Remote job opportunities isn’t reserved for the few. In fact, they are open to all. But you have to be strategic.

Percentage of Remote Job Openings

In the 25 trending remote work statistics article, Zippia projected the U.S., the percentage of remote job openings was around 15%. While the percentage of total jobs listed are for remote job openings, what is particularly striking for job seekers is the fact that many believe that remote work postings are for high-paying jobs.

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With regards to Europe, Euronews estimates that remote job opportunities traditionally held steady at 4% of all high paying jobs pre-Covid-19. After which, however, the percentage doubled to 9% by 2020 to around 15% today.

Percentage of Workforce Working from Home

Estimates of anywhere from 6%  (7 million workers) to up to 12% of the US workforce worked from home at least one day (or more) per week prior to Covid-19. Based on current data, the number of remote working employees has doubled to approach the 25% to 26% range. This represents one-quarter of workers (in the US) tele-work, work from home, or work from anywhere.

Eurostat estimated that slightly more than 5% of workers in the European Union worked from home in 2019.  Eurostat also calculated an approximately doubling of workers who teleworked, worked from home to 12.3% during the height of Covid-19. In some European countries, the impact of the Covid-19 increased much more dramatically. For instance, the number of workers tele-working in Sweden increased tenfold. When looking at white-collar workers alone, two-thirds of Swedes worked from home in response to the global pandemic.

There are other variations by European country for remote work adoption. There are several European countries according to Ubiwork where at least 50% of the country’s workforce utilize some form of remote work, hybrid, or work from anywhere options. Luxembourg (47,8%), the Netherlands (42,7%), Switzerland (41.5%) and Finland (40.4%) are market leaders for integration of remote work into longstanding work policies.

Remote Work Competencies

Due to the lockdowns and forced closures brought about by Covid-19, corporations had to adapt rather quickly. This required their employees working at home to jump start their digital skills. Employees had to master virtual meetings, learn to use online platforms for communication and team collaboration, become proficient with e-learning tools,  become adept at cyber security, project management, and scheduling.

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From all accounts, boosting the digital literacy of employees who teleworked paid off. Increased productivity, lower rates of absenteeism, and reduced overhead represented a few of the benefits to the corporation. As a result, more employers may choose to adopt remote and hybrid work policies in the future.

In addition to the acquisition of digital skills necessary to maintain proficiency at one’s remote job, remote workers had to learn the ‘soft skills’ and nuances required to navigate the virtual terrain while maintaining healthy working relationships with their colleagues.  They had to answer these questions through trial and error:

  • At what level of assertiveness do I engage with my colleagues?
  • How many edits and comments are acceptable for any given document?
  • What is the appropriate level of participation in online meetings (how often should I raise my hand, speak up, or remain silent)?
  • How to I present my case online (should I be overly animated, what level of voice, what should I wear)?

Prepare for the future of Remote Work

As workers gained confidence in their ability to work from their homes, they grew to like the change. In the U.S., 68% of Americans have a preference for tele-commuting, according to Zippia. This is evident based upon the observations of Linkedin CEO Ryan Roslansky. In a recent interview, he said, “north of 50% of all job applications on a daily basis on Linkedin” are applications for remote jobs even though remote job listings for vacant positions represent less than 15% of the total pool of vacancies posted.

Remote Work Predictions

Zippia estimates in just three short years, there will be 36.2 million workers in the US working at home. This represents a 417% increase from pre-Covid-19 levels. Ubiwork projects within the same time period, 30% of European workers will work from home.

Job Training for the Future of Remote Work

To stand out in the crowded field of aspiring remote workers, it is important to know which skills are needed. While we know that digital skills and experience with remote work online platforms are preeminent, other skills are desired as well.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its “Future of jobs report 2020”, estimated approximately 40% of people interested in tele-working or required to work from home will need new training lasting up to 6 months. When asked, 94% of business leaders expect to provide these skills in on-the-job training. Some of the skills anticipated are:

  • Self management
  • Active learning
  • Resilience
  • Stress Tolerance
  • Flexibility

Perhaps the main reason why these skills will be in high demand is because the remote working employee works outside of the physical presence of his supervisor. While this construct increases autonomy and flexibility, the downside for many could be that the remote worker does not have immediate one-on-one access to his boss. And vice versa. A struggling remote worker may find it difficult to inform his supervisor that he is having difficulty and needs guidance.

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In the absence of physical, one-on-one contact, nor can the manager observe in real time and informally engage the employee by offering support, re-direction, and feedback.

You CAN grab a remote job. But you gotta prepare yourself. Become well-versed with your digital literacy skills. But also need to become proficient with the soft skills of self management, lifelong learning, resiliency, high levels of stress tolerance and flexibility to be competitive in an increasingly competitive job marketplace.







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