6 Interpersonal Skills All Remote and Hybrid Workers Should Possess
Soft skills are the new hard skills: Employers want them, recruiters look for them and workers leverage them to grow. Interpersonal skills, specifically, are essential in any workplace. They are traits and attributes that enable you to interact and collaborate with others.
“Organizations are made up of teams of people working toward common goals. Interpersonal skills are therefore important for all jobs, whether you work directly with customers or your interactions are primarily with peers and managers,” according to remote work expert Bridget Chebo. “In order to convey a message or a point, or influence someone to your way of thinking, interpersonal skills are essential to getting the job done.”
When you want to get the job done in a hybrid or remote work model, things get a little more complex. As Chebo explains, you lose many of the traditional cues that people have come to rely on in terms of interpersonal relationships. Things like eye contact, handshakes, body language and facial expressions are part of your typical interpersonal skill arsenal. You also lose tone and context when communicating through texts, DMs and email, which doesn’t exactly help you on an interpersonal level.
You probably know that emotional intelligence and communication are important at work. They are still important in a hybrid or remote setting, but there are additional intricacies to consider. Here are the interpersonal skills all remote and hybrid workers should possess.
1. Virtual Communication
It’s not enough to be a good communicator. Elevating your virtual communication skills is key. This includes initiating conversations more often than it feels natural. “You must be willing to make the first move, communicate early, and communicate often. Chances are if you have a question, so does someone else, so get used to speaking up,” says Chebo.
“Reach out to someone in your working group and introduce yourself. Encourage and participate in creating an environment of open communication, open inquiry and teamwork. Understand the appropriate channels and methods of communication in your organization and use them.” Oh, and turn your camera on to bring back some of the lost non-verbal communication cues.
2. Active listening
Speaking of which, active listening is also an important skill all remote and hybrid workers should possess, as it nurtures relationships and facilitates collaboration. It’s easy to multitask while connecting with your coworkers on Zoom, but it’s imperative not to. You want to make the most of the opportunities that you do have to demonstrate active listening – and those video calls are prime time for that.
“Active listening requires you to be fully present when speaking with another. Rather than merely hearing a colleague’s words, someone who possesses strong active listening skills is seeking to understand the meaning behind what the other is saying,” says Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. In a video meeting, make eye contact and provide cues such as nodding and affirmative noises to demonstrate that you’re listening, she says.
Being reliable means that others can count on you. In a hybrid or remote team, this is critical. People are often working asynchronously and trusting each other to progress action items and stay on top of projects. Plus, being flaky looks extra flaky when your coworkers don’t see you sitting in your cubicle. Stay responsive and follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
That doesn’t mean that you should be available 24/7. This may surprise you, but knowing how to set boundaries is an underrated interpersonal skill that all hybrid and remote workers should embrace. Wondering how to balance the need to be accessible with the need to protect your time and mental health? It’s a delicate dance.
“In a remote environment, it can be a lot harder to get a hold of people. Keep your calendar organized, set up notifications during work hours, put in messages when you’re away and turn off notifications during off-limits times. Being consistent and reliable will improve your working relationships and inspire trust. But it’s up to you to protect your boundaries and work/life balance to avoid burnout,” says Chebo.
Empathy, emotional intelligence, positivity, cultural sensitivity and openness are all part of the art of building relationships – a crucial interpersonal skill in the workplace.
“Issues will come up and conflict resolution relies on good relationships and developing a sense of mutual respect amongst employees. Managing your own emotions and recognizing how to respond to [others’] emotions at the same time will result in positive relationships,” says Jessica Kohke, HR director at Career Group Companies.
Putting yourself in the shoes of other people goes a long way in building relationships.
6. Adaptability and resilience
According to Kohke, adaptability and resilience are also key interpersonal skills these days. “Technology and channels of communication are rapidly changing. It is important to have an open mind, manage uncertainty, and find positivity when issues arise,”she says. “You need to be resilient and able to reinvent yourself in different learning environments with remote work.”
The pandemic sure was one sober reminder of the importance of those needs in a rapidly evolving and sometimes uncertain world. Keep fostering your adaptability and resilience.