Soft skills, despite their misnomer, have always been crucial to academic and professional success.
While we’ve written about the importance of measuring and nurturing them before, the ongoing repercussions of COVID-19 on an increasingly remote workforce have called for renewed emphasis on cultivating these skills. Here are a few soft skills that are more in-demand than ever, and how they came to be.
Among the earliest, and perhaps most dramatic, transitions in the response to COVID-19 was a widespread pivot to remote work. For many companies, this meant an overnight shift from in-person meetings to Slack messages and Zoom calls for months on end.
Of course, communicating primarily via instant message or email can lead to breakdowns in communication, not to mention things getting lost, or misinterpreted, in translation. Being able to effectively communicate, whether it be virtual or in-person, is a necessity. It just is. In virtual work environments, over-communicating is an especially appreciated skill. This aligns teams and prevents tasks and requests from getting lost in the shuffle.
Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
At the end of the day, we’re still in the throws of a global pandemic. People have lost loved ones to the virus, others have lost jobs, some have been displaced, and social distancing is causing millions of people across the country to feel isolated. According to a study by the CDC, over 40% of Americans reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during the pandemic.
Empathy and emotional intelligence (i.e., “reading the room”) are a must. This applies not only to employees, but also to employers. Flexibility is also key, and very closely related.
Being able to place yourself in someone else’s shoes will not only make you a better member of the workforce, but it will ultimately make you a better human. It strengthens bonds among teams, and reinforces the notion that we’re all in this together.
Self-Motivation and Time Management
Work-life balance is very easily skewed when the “work” and “life” are happening in the same place. Hitting the “snooze” button becomes much easier. Taking a long lunch does, too. As such, setting boundaries to distinguish professional time and personal time, especially as many companies move beyond the traditional confines of “9-5” will be of paramount importance. Deciding when you’re most productive and motivated will help you ensure projects are finished and deadlines are met, without sacrificing crucial family time in the process.