The Skills and Qualities You’ll Need to Be Unstoppable as a Remote Worker
So far, so good then, but just because remote work brings about a lot of benefits doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work, nor does it mean that it’s necessarily a good fit for everyone.
Next, look at the skills, and qualities you’ll need to succeed as a remote-based customer service specialist.
Focus and Commitment
For all of the advantages that remote work has overworking in an office, there’s no denying that it’s much easier to focus on getting stuff done in an office environment that is specifically and purposefully designed for the task at hand.
There are fewer distractions, fewer excuses and opportunities to shirk the work, and certainly no opportunity to perpetuate the stereotype of lazy homeworkers who simply sit around watching Netflix all day!
This means that if you’re going to commit to a remote working job, you’re going to have to really commit and focus on the task at hand.
In section 3 of this course, you'll learn about some of the tools you can use to help you get your work done, but there are other tools that you may find helpful to ensure that you only get that work done and aren’t tempted to spend the whole time scrolling through Facebook or playing online video games while you’re clocked on.
If you’re a Google Chrome user, you may find that the StayFocusd app is a critical part of your home working tool kit.
It lets you block -or at least severely restrict- your own access to social media, news websites, or any other platform which would otherwise distract you from the task at hand.
The extension allows you to choose when those sites are blocked and how long for.
For example, if Facebook is what causes you to lose focus the most, you could simply use StayFocusd to block your access to it between the hours of (AM - 5 PM, Monday to Friday, or whenever it is you happen to work.
After 5 PM and at weeks, you can still check your Facebook account and like, share, and scroll to your heart's content.
You can find the completely free tool by searching “StayFocusd” or by going HERE.
Tomato Timer / Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management and productivity tool which breaks work down into short, 25-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks in between.
We're much more capable of focussing on a single thing for just 25 minutes than we are for any longer period of time, making this an effective way of staying committed to the task at hand.
Obviously, the idea of taking a break every five minutes isn't really practical when you're actively engaged in working with customers, but if you have non-customer-facing work to do, the Pomodoro technique could be helpful.
You could even use it to break down the way you study this course. After all, we used the Pomodoro Technique to maintain our own focus when writing the course, so there's no reason why it couldn't be every bit as effective to help you concentrate while studying.
The Tomato Timer tool (https://tomato-timer.com) is just one way to use this technique, making it simple to set 25-minute timers and manage your in-between breaks at the click of a button.
Discipline and Self-Motivation
Staying focused on the task at hand is just one example of how you’ll need to practice discipline when you’re working from home, but it’s not the only way.
Remember that when you’re working from home you’ll have limited -if any- supervision. Nobody is going to force you out of bed and up to your computer just as nobody is going to stop you from slipping off back to bed for a quick snooze when you're supposed to be taking calls.
In fact, nobody is going to stop you from wandering away from doing any number of the million other things you could be doing instead of working, at least not until your managers realize that you haven't been doing what you should be doing and decide to let you go.
In other words, remote work takes a serious amount of self-discipline and dedication to the work.
Fortunately, if you think you might struggle with this, there are a few things you can do to make life a little easier for yourself.
Dress for Work
It's an often-repeated joke that comfortable pajamas are the official uniform of the homeworker.
For years, countless freelancers, self-employed types, and remote workers boasted about sitting down at their desk to conduct important business while wearing batman PJs and Homer Simpson slippers.
It's a fun visual, but the truth is that sloping around in your pajamas all day is hardly conducive to feeling motivated and productive. In fact, it's going to tell your brain that it's time to chill out and laze around the house.
Instead, give yourself the opportunity to engage in a proper morning routine and dress as if you were heading to the office. This tells the brain that it's time to go to work.
Set Hours and Maintain a Routine
Getting dressed for work is just one part of a larger routine that can help you stay disciplined and focused on the task at hand.
Rather than fitting your work in whenever you have time or simply mixing it in with other things like household chores, you'll find that the key to success is to set aside certain hours which are for work and work only.
This is so important as one of the drawbacks of working from home is that without the morning commute to put time and physical distance between your home and work life -- the two can very easily become one messy blur.
To avoid this, decide what hours you're going to be available for customer service work and make sure you do nothing else in those hours.
You may even find that it helps to still give yourself that sense of separating the two parts of your day by going for a short walk around the block before and after your work hours.
Set Boundaries and Rewards
The idea that working from home means you're not really working isn't just held by managers. Friends, family, and loved ones can also fall into the trap of thinking that just because you're home means you're free and having nothing to do.
Before long, the demands for your time and attention start flooding in, but it's important to say no and set boundaries.
"No, I can't just get up and take a walk with you right now, but I'll get a lunch break in an hour, maybe we could go then?"
"No, I can't just take the afternoon off to go shopping with you. How about this weekend?"
"No, I can't run errands, help you with your homework or do anything else other than work right now. I'd love to help you, but it will have to be later."
Of course, this isn't always so easy when the request for our time is something that we'd love to say yes to.
Who wouldn't want to help their kids with homework or take off for a walk or go shopping for the afternoon?
This is where setting rewards can prove really invaluable in helping you maintain those boundaries.
If you know in advance that staying disciplined and getting that morning's work done means you get to take that lunchtime walk, for example, then it's easier to say no to other things and maintain those all-important boundaries.
Have a Dedicated Work Space
We talked earlier about how one of the main benefits of working from home is that you can set up your home office space however suits you best.
Be sure to take advantage of this benefit and get your own dedicated workspace set up.
It isn't just a nicety. Rather, it could be the one thing that makes all the difference between maintaining discipline and focus and slacking off playing Call of Duty or spending hours on Pinterest when you're supposed to be working.
Sure, add a few personal items, but don't bring anything into your workspace that isn't going to help you get the job done.
More importantly, don't use this workspace for any other purpose.
Even if it's only the corner of your living room, making sure that the space is for work and work alone tells the brain that when you're in that space, it's time to get things done.
Being a Team Player
Even though you’ll be working solo most of the time, being a customer service specialist still means being part of a team, all ultimately working together to achieve the same goal.
As such, it's important to consider how your actions impact the rest of your team.
If there are certain targets or goals to be met, then you slack off for the day when everybody else is working hard is going to negatively impact the rest of your team.
The same goes for simple things like engaging in the culture and your remote-office team and getting into the spirit of things.
If everyone else turns their camera on for your weekly Zoom catch-up meetings and you're the only one that doesn't, then at best it's going to have a knock-on effect on your team's morale and, at worst, could make it harder for you to really enjoy the kind of benefits you get from working in a team environment.
"Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity." Nat Turner
Communication is a Job Saver! The Importance of Communication in a Remote Workplace
I can’t stress enough how important clear communication is when you work online.
I’ve been a digital entrepreneur and operator for over a decade, grown a digital team from 4 to over 100 people and am a fully functioning remote worker as well!
Let me tell you about the time I almost fired one of my top people, just because they were not communicating!
Working with a digital team takes constant communication, but that doesn’t mean you are ‘pinging’ your coworkers every 5 minutes either. Using tools such as Slack, you can show others when you are working, when you’re on a break, when you’re in a meeting. Taking that small step lets others know when you’re there, when you’re not.
Earlier this year, I was on the hunt for another editor. Now, this was a role I was super eager to fill, so when I found someone who totally fit the job description, I was really excited to have them start working with us. The first couple of days, she seemed almost timid, yet excited to get started, then all of a sudden, I didn’t hear from her.
A few more days went by and I couldn’t see any output. I didn’t hear from her, see her submit any work and there was no action or communication on Slack. It almost appeared that she was ghosting her new job…
So, I reached out on Slack.
No news. I thought I had made it clear that we used Slack for day-to-day communications. Most digital businesses move very quickly and without clear communication, you can easily get left in the digital dust!
After another day or two, I decided I was going to let this person go. I was crafting the ‘sorry, this didn’t work out email’ when she finally decided to reach out.
Turns out, she had a personal crisis and didn’t think to inform me.
In the end, I’m glad she finally reached out and that I was able to coach her on how we communicate. You see, the problem wasn’t her skills, or that she wasn’t able to do her job, or that she really wanted to ghost me (yikes!). She just didn’t see the importance of communication!
Lesson learned: Just reach out to your coworkers and managers!
It’s no secret that good communication is an essential skill for most jobs. That’s just as true in a traditional office environment as it is if you’re working from home.
That said, remote work presents certain communication challenges that you just don’t get in the office, especially when it comes to communicating with your managers and peers.
Let’s go back to that weekly catch-up meeting. In a face-to-face environment, it’s easy to pick up on other people’s non-verbal communication skills such as body language and facial expressions.
Yet when you’re working remotely, this becomes all the more difficult, even if you’re using a video conferencing tool like Zoom.
Your written communication skills will also need to be on point as remote work means you're more likely to be relying on emails or other forms of communication such as text messages, WhatsApp groups or exchanges via Slack.
The problem with written communication is that one poorly constructed message or the wrong choice of word can mean that the entire tone of your message -let alone the intention of said message- can be completely misunderstood.
In other words, you'll really have to up your game when it comes to communication, not only with the customers you'll be dealing with, but with colleagues and supervisors too.
On a final note, keep in mind that communication also means communicating your status. If you’re stepping away from the desk for a five-minute comfort break, it’s important that you let your teammates know, either by setting your status to away, sending a direct message, or, preferably, both.
That way, you avoid the risk that a team mate or manager might contact you and ask for your help, only to discover that you’re not there. If you haven’t actively comminuted your status, it could well be assumed that you’re simply slacking off, which not only leaves your team feeling let down, but could also make your managers question whether you’re committed to the job.