Remote work is more popular than ever. Even though some businesses have returned to the office, flexible and fully remote teams are part of the new normal.\nOne good reason is that remote workers tend to be more productive than their in-office counterparts.\nHowever, working from home doesn’t magically inspire your team to get more done.\nPeople who have a great work ethic and crush their goals in the office are likely to succeed in their home office, too. But there are some challenges that make remote work a little different.\nWhether you’re hiring new distributed team members or looking for ways to help your existing people upgrade their skills, this article talks about the vital work-from-home skills you should look for.\nWhy remote skills matter\nOften, hiring managers look for signs of a good work ethic and neglect the other skills that help remote teams succeed.\nA person’s remote work ethic is the set of values and characteristics that enable them to productively work from home. We tend to think of work ethic as something you either have, or you don’t.\nActually, work ethic is just one of many core skills.\nIn a healthy work environment, each team member is responsible for her or his own task list. They need work ethic, independence, critical thinking skills, and a willingness to communicate in order to get the job done.\nWithout a well-rounded set of skills, your team will suffer productivity issues. Communication gaps can also cause issues with your remote culture.\nDistributed teams don’t always spot remote skill gaps until they’ve cost thousands of dollars. Tools like Hubstaff can help you get ahead of those problems by creating more visibility in your remote team, but there’s no substitute for work ethic.\nLeadership is vital to help your team develop their work from home skills\nWe can’t possibly cover everything in one blog post. Read on to learn how to develop a better work ethic in your team, and download our free Remote Management Ebook for even more resources to help you boost productivity and get more done.\n\n\n\nThe work from home skills your team needs\nThere’s more to a strong work ethic than the willingness to perform tasks. It’s possible to waste time at work by focusing on the wrong things or getting bogged down with inefficient processes.\nYour team members with these work-from-home skills are more likely to show a strong work ethic. Look for these characteristics in new hires.\nIf you want to improve your team’s remote work ethic, invest in your team and help them develop these skills.\nGreat communication skills\n\nA team member’s poor communication skills can slow down an entire team and result in missed deadlines and overdue projects.\nAll great remote workers have excellent communication skills and are able to communicate their thoughts and ideas effortlessly.\nIn a remote team, workers will do most of their communication through email and communication apps such as Slack. This makes it crucial that they’re good at expressing themselves in writing.\nOn top of that, your team members should get good at raising their hands and asking for or offering help.\nWhen your team works from home, communication doesn’t happen by accident. Every time coworkers connect, someone has to reach out and make that happen.\n\nResponsiveness is another important communication skill to build.\nWhile remote work inevitably involves asynchronous communication, it’s still important that team members are able to respond to each other’s messages within a reasonable time frame.\nFor most remote teams, this means replying to emails and Slack messages within 24 hours of receiving them.\nHow to improve remote communication\nYou need to set the standard for how you want company communication to look like. In most cases, this will require improving your communication skills, which you can do by:\n\nListening more and talking less – This is by far the easiest way to improve your communication skills. Simply focus on the other person and what they’re saying instead of thinking about what your next line is going to be.\nPaying attention to your body language – Body language is an integral part of communication. When talking to someone, you’ll want to make sure you’re displaying negative body language by slouching, looking down, or keeping your hands in your pockets.\nTaking courses and reading books – There are plenty of courses and books on how to improve your communication skills. Take advantage of these to become a better communicator.\n\nAt Hubstaff, we use our Communication Manifesto to protect deep work time, encourage healthy collaboration, and set reasonable limits. You can get a copy of it here to use as a template.\n\n\n\nThe ability to work independently\nPeople who are a great fit for remote work usually don’t need a lot of hand-holding on the job. These team members won’t email their supervisor a dozen times a day asking questions they could have answered themselves with the resources they already have.\nThey’re capable of working independently and figuring things out on their own. In fact, they prefer it.\n\nHow to increase independence in your team\nIf one person needs a lot of help to do their job, it’s probably something you need to address individually. If you notice that this is a trend across much of your team, you probably have some process issues to fix.\nStart by making sure that everyone has access to the information they need.\nDocument all of your processes and use a task management system like Hubstaff Tasks to keep good records. For example, we use checklists and comments to keep track of progress so that it’s easier to hand off work to the next person.\n\nFor those individuals who need a little nudge in the right direction, get in the habit of answering their questions by explaining how they can answer it themself.\nIn other words, if someone asks you the correct way to respond to a customer’s question, direct them to the folder where you keep your support guides and tell them where to look to find that answer. Encourage them to bookmark important information so they can find it again.\nOver time, your team will learn that they can and should find information and make decisions on their own.\nOne caveat — make sure that you empower your team to be independent. Kick your micromanagement tendencies and work on developing more transparency in your team.\nAccountability\nAs a leader of a remote team, you don’t have time to check on everyone to make sure they’re doing what you asked them to.\nYou should be able to count on your team to do what they say, meet deadlines, and speak up if something doesn’t go as planned.\nPeople who are a good fit for working remotely usually have the maturity to take responsibility for their own actions. They don’t shift blame to other people, instead focusing on how to move forward.\nHow to improve accountability\nIf you want to improve your employees’ accountability, you need to make sure to stay accountable yourself. Follow through on your promises and take responsibility when things don’t go the way you expect.\nThis is another place where task management software is especially useful. Assign tasks to specific people so that everyone knows who is responsible for what. Use automated workflows to make sure things get handed off smoothly.\nOrganizing your tasks wisely keeps things from slipping through the cracks. It also gives your team a convenient place to communicate if they need to make adjustments.\nExcellent time management skills\n\nRemote work often comes with flexible work hours.\nPeople who were previously confined to specific work hours can have issues managing their time when they’re first allowed to have a flexible work schedule. Time can quickly get away from someone when they don’t need to work an eight-hour day, five days a week.\nGreat remote team members know how to manage their time effectively. They often use to-do lists and time tracking tools to keep themselves organized.\nThese top performers are mindful of work-life balance. Each week, they put in consistent hours without letting their work take over their home life. If they have too much to do and not enough time to do it, they let their teammates know so you can adjust workloads accordingly.\nHow to promote better time management\nOne of the most effective ways to improve time management in your company is to use a time tracking tool.\nWith a tool like Hubstaff, your team tracks time by task. That data shows your team and your managers exactly where work time goes. Your estimates will be more accurate because you can look at how long it took to do similar projects, and your team can see which tasks are starting to eat up more hours than expected.\n\nYou’ll probably always have more tasks on your to-do list than you have time to do. Prioritization is crucial for good time management. Help your team complete the right work in the right order by setting and communicating clear priorities.\nYou might also want to try out a time management technique in your team, such as Getting Things Done (GTD) or time blocking.\nDifferent systems work for different people, so test a few and see what works best for your team.\nProactiveness\nIf you’re leading a remote team, you want to have as many proactive employees as possible.\nThese people don’t just take care of their main job responsibilities, but also look for ways to improve the company’s existing workflows and processes.\nThey’re happy to help out with a variety of tasks, even if those tasks are not a part of their core responsibilities.\nProactive team members are engaged employees that take the initiative instead of waiting for someone to tell them what to do.\nHow to encourage your team to be more proactive\n\nReward the behaviors you want to see. When team members come to you with an idea, thank them for speaking up and take their suggestions seriously.\nIt’s easy to criticize a new idea, especially if it’s different from what you were already working on. Resist that temptation. Team members will hesitate to try new things or make new suggestions if your immediate response is critical.\nIf you notice that nobody in your team is very proactive, you likely have a cultural issue.\nMaybe you’ve been micromanaging and people don’t feel empowered.\nPerhaps your policies reward people who stick to the status quo over those who create more work by sharing new ideas.\nTake a look at your culture and remove the barriers that stop people from speaking up. Gradually, your team will feel more comfortable making decisions and offering their opinions.\nIntegrity\nStrong ethical and moral principles should be the backbone of every business, guiding decision-making and interactions with coworkers and customers.\nYou should expect all your employees to have integrity. Integrity means that a person’s words, thoughts, and actions are in alignment. If they say they’ll do something, they do it. If they say they believe in a specific value, their actions prove it.\nHire people who have this quality.\nPeople with integrity do their job to the best of their ability without trying to cut corners, lie, or cheat.\nIf you have a lack of integrity in your company, you may need to hire new team members to fix it. First, start by examining your company’s culture and values to see if the problem is systemic.\nDefine your company values\n\nWhen you write down your company values, your employees understand what kind of behavior you expect from them.\nAs you communicate your values to your team, remember to give examples of the types of behavior that aren’t acceptable and define the consequences. Teach your managers how to address these issues. If you don’t enforce your policy, it won’t make any difference to your culture.\nMost companies would benefit from striving to maintain the following values:\nHonesty\nHonesty helps to create a transparent work environment.\nEncourage employees to speak their minds at all times. Train managers to provide useful, candid feedback that can help employees improve their performance.\nIf you haven’t worked in a transparent environment before, this value can be tough. Honesty isn’t always easy. However, it’s worth learning. Remember to share truths respectfully and clearly.\nTrust\nTrust is the basis of all interactions and relationships in a successful company. It improves collaboration and helps to create a healthier work environment.\n\nThere needs to be trust between the employer and their employees, as well as between customers and staff.\nDeveloping trust is an ongoing process. You build trust slowly but lose it quickly.\nIn your values, define what trust means to you as a company and only make promises you know you will keep.\nOwnership\nOwnership is one of the most important values a company can have. It implies employees caring about the company and its goals as if they were the owner.\nOwnership improves productivity and performance and can have a positive effect on job satisfaction and morale.\nThis is another value that takes time to build. Hire people who take pride in their work, no matter what it is, and empower your team to make decisions about their careers. It’s hard to take ownership when the boss makes all your choices for you.\nEach of these values helps your team have more integrity because you have the opportunity to prove that they mean something to you. Make sure your actions back up your words.\nWrap up\nA good remote work ethic is the best sign of a great remote employee. If your current employees are lacking in the work ethic department, use this guide to address specific issues before you blame a character flaw.\nRemember to lead by example.\nShow your team that work ethic is important by following through on your promises and living up to your company values.\nHere’s one final reminder:\nWork ethic does not mean working at all hours to prove your loyalty and commitment. That’s not a healthy way to run a team. As long as your team is living up to all of their commitments and doing great quality work, you can trust their remote work ethic.\nWant more great advice to help you lead your remote team to success? Get our free ebook here.\n\n\n\nThis post was published in September 2013. It was updated in June 2021.