Productivity Guides

5 Critical Skills for Effective Remote Work

Husam Machlovi

March 05, 2021

Remote work provides the convenience of working from wherever you'd prefer. To effectively work remotely, however, you need to have a unique set of skills. Most of these are newly emerging as we uncover more about what successful remote work looks like. Hone the following skills to improve your chances of getting remote work gigs.

Text Communication

The vast majority of communication for remote work takes place through text communications. This includes email, Slack, and various project management tools. Because of this, you need to have strong written communication skills.

This should include the ability to express your ideas clearly and concisely. It should also include the ability to understand the ideas of others. It also includes knowing when to ask for clarification. 

You also want to consider writing with varying levels of formality. That means knowing casual vs formal writing, and when to use either.

For example, stream-of-consciousness where you're not worried about grammar or punctuation has it's place in asynchronous team meetings or synchronized stand-ups on slack. Perfect spelling, grammar and punctuation will get in the way of fast communication.

But a findings or summary report is different. In that case, you want folks to be able to consume your updates very quickly. More structured and formal writing works better there to express your ideas in a way that's easy for your teammates to understand.

Asynchronous Collaboration

Asynchronous collaboration is also crucial for remote work. It refers to being able to communicate with teammates in different timezones effectively.

That means knowing when to provide very detailed updates versus keeping the communication light.

And it also includes keeping work-related promises. Your best bet is to create a cadence for yourself and your teammates, such as responding every 24 hours. 

Some of your ability to collaborate asynchronously also depends on other skills. These include written communication and familiarity and flexibility with tools and software. 

Flexibility With Software Tools

While you may find a remote work opportunity that only uses software and tools you are familiar with, this isn't the norm. There's a good chance that you will be hired, and the company will use tools you're unfamiliar with or will switch to tools that are new to you.

Because of this, you should be familiar with tools that let you work remotely. But you should also be flexible enough to learn how to use new programs and tools quickly. This will reduce the learning curve and allow you to focus on your main tasks. 

It's impossible to learn every software or app that's released. But remember that many of them are made so they're easy to learn and use. Be confident to try new software and learn on the go.


To effectively do remote work, you need to be a self-starter. When you work remotely, there's no boss hovering over your shoulder. You need to have the motivation to complete the work on your own.

Time management also goes hand-in-hand with being a self-starter. Successful remote workers block off long periods of time to focus on crucial tasks. During these times, they don’t worry about emails or other unrelated jobs. 

A subset of being a self-starter is the ability to focus. Working at home comes with plenty of distractions. These include family members interrupting to dogs barking.

You need to be able to circumvent these distractions in a way that's healthy, so you can focus on your work. Many remote workers do this by having a designated workspace. They also keep that space organized and use noise-canceling headphones. 

Courage to Ask Questions

Sometimes it can be intimidating to ask questions but remote workers must be brave enough to ask them.

Remember, remote work involves less contact between you and colleagues and bosses. Your boss and teammates are less likely to constantly check on you and see if you have any doubts. This leaves the onus on you to ask questions when necessary.

You also need the skills to ask your questions clearly. Remember that with remote work, you and your boss or colleagues may not be online at the same time. As such, you don’t want to have to email back and forth multiple times for clarification as this could take days.

You want to explain your question and why you have it clearly on the first try. This ties back into the written communication skills mentioned earlier. It also goes back to the skills related to software and tools. You should be able to use those to ask questions effectively. An example would be to know when to include a screenshot or visual to better convey your question.

Remote Creative Work is the single resource for remote work. We help you develop your remote skills and find remote gigs. Join our newsletter to be kept in the know. You can also follow us on Instagram.

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