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October 23, 2015

Skills All Teleworkers Need

Communication

Jeff Cochran

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Teleworking has become more popular as businesses shift increasingly to online assignments. Teleworkers have several advantages over traditional company employees. Many jobs allow them to set their own schedules. They can spend more time with family and friends, take off when needed, and enjoy built-in relaxation opportunities like reading, watching TV, or playing with pets on break. However, teleworkers often need practice with time management and other essential skills.

Time Management

Many teleworkers struggle with managing their time. Often they either underestimate how long it will take to complete an assignment or overload themselves with assignments. The results include burnout, missed deadlines, decreased morale, loss of credibility, and in some cases, termination. Teleworkers who split their time between home and the office can benefit by saving larger projects for telework days, which keeps them from feeling overwhelmed in the office. Working in small chunks and rewarding oneself also helps. For example, say, “I’m going to work on this for 30 more minutes and then take a break.” Audible and visual reminders from calendars and electronic devices help, too.

Socialization and Networking

Teleworking can be extremely isolating, especially if an employee is in a rural area or is the only one working on a specific position or project. Experts recommend reaching out to telework buddies to compare notes, get help with projects, and stay updated on office culture. Additionally, such isolation may cause people skills to suffer. Teleworkers should take as many in-person networking opportunities as possible. They should write “elevator pitches” and practice explaining their products, services, or ideas before networking opportunities arise. Finally, teleworkers should make plenty of time to go out with family or friends to exercise, eat, see movies, or do other fun activities.

Technological Skills

Teleworkers might be hired to work over the phone or online, but that doesn’t mean they should stick to one technological resource. Actually, teleworkers are more beneficial if they know how to use several programs and applications. Since teleworking allows freedom of scheduling, use free time to refresh skills in Excel, PowerPoint, Skype, and other programs. Learn a new program and share how it might benefit the company. Read field-related blogs, or start a new one (be careful not to blog personal information about the company).

Tact

Even the most sociable, friendly teleworker can make mistakes when he or she can’t see the human on the other side of a phone or screen. Be careful to abide by email etiquette. For instance, never use all caps or excessive exclamation marks. Online, that’s the equivalent of yelling.

Similarly, teleworkers should never say anything over the phone or via the internet that would sound rude or mean in real life. Finally, teleworkers should never come out and say, “I’m on the patio” or “I’m at lunch.” It may be true, but may also dent credibility and make coworkers jealous, which will hurt office relations. Finally, teleworkers should not expect their companies to schedule breaks or pay them for break time.

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