12 ways to improve your soft skills while waiting for COVID-19’s conclusion

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From Tribune News Service

Working from home can be difficult. You’re often isolated, frustrated and basically waiting to get the COVID-19 “all-clear” so you can get on with your life. Now is the time to make yourself more valuable than ever. Brush up on your soft skills, those intangible qualities that separate good employees from great. Click through this gallery for 12 steps you can take to prepare yourself for what comes next.


Boost your work ethic

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When your boss can’t see you in person, it’s imperative that you do the work. Don’t skip projects or do the minimum amount of work. Considering the COVID-19 communications barriers, you may find that it takes more work than usual to get things. When someone asks for something via email by 3 p.m., send it to them an hour earlier.


Do your homework

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Not being in the office doesn’t absolve you of keeping up with the latest trends, issues and competitors. Read industry publications, check out various business sections, visit related websites, listen to applicable podcasts and check out other sources of information to make sure you know what you need to know—and more.


Improve your approach

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To be successful and valued, you should be an employee who can work well with. Take steps to improve your interpersonal skills, including how you interact with co-workers and managers in-person and online. Hint: A positive attitude and a pleasant disposition go a long way.


Be a team player

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Although you’re working remotely, the members of your team are still members of—yes—your team. If you take some time each day to catch up on headlines or binge-watching suggestions, keep doing it. Your ability to be a strong, contributing member of a department relies on your professional and personal contributions. If your work-from-home experience becomes a work-from-home-alone experience, it will be hard to acclimate back into the workforce.


Easy on distractions

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When working from home, time management is key. If you can fight the urge to turn off your laptop and turn on Netflix when you have work to do, you’re halfway there. Learn to segment your day into tasks, leave time for planning and contemplating and find a schedule that works for you and stick with it.


Get curious

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If you see an unfamiliar topic on an upcoming agenda, do a little legwork and find out what it is and what it means to you, your employer and your industry. Then, if applicable, analyze how the topic in question has been successfully managed by others.


Be creative

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That email update you want to send to your co-workers? Make it a video instead—and use your six-year-old son and nine-year-old chihuahua to act out your message. That Zoom meeting that goes on and on and on? Break it up with a quick ukulele sing-a-long. Yes, those are dumb ideas and yes, someone will appreciate that you’re using the left side of your brain to mix things up a bit.


Be prepared

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The days of strolling into the conference room a minute or two late for the weekly meetings are on hold. Today, tardiness can be a real hindrance to getting work done. If you’re supposed to be online for a meeting at 10 a.m., set up ahead of time so you’re not tumbling into the screen at 10:06 while fumbling with your mute button and yelling at the dog.


Adapt

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Pretty obvious, right? If your rigidity to new ideas, situations and environments has held you back in the past, this current stay-in-place situation provides the perfect opportunity to get a bit flexible. Being receptive to new strategies, methods and forms of communication now will pay off in the future when things get a bit back to normal.


Solve problems

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Working toward solutions should part of your process. Problem-solving skills, among others, include finding ways to work with other departments, minimizing scheduling conflicts, minimizing personality conflicts and identifying various solutions that will only help your project and your professional reputation.


Admit mistakes and move on

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Everyone’s working in a unique environment, thanks to the pandemic, so it’s likely there will be an occasional misstep. If you’re involved in a blown deadline, a botched project or a missed opportunity, own up to it, figure out what went wrong and address those issues in the future.


Listen up

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Speaking effectively is important but people often undervalue the importance of listening. Practice listening. An effective listener truly hears the opinions and ideas of others before reacting.

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