As the job market continues to recover from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic, the future of work has often looked uncertain. But one change is clear: flexible work arrangements are here to stay.
In September EY spoke with 1,000 global business leaders and found that 79% of companies intend to make "moderate to extensive hybrid work changes." These plans are in response to an overwhelming demand for flexible work among employees, as 90% said they desire greater flexibility in where and how they work.
"We're going to continue to see strong remote and hybrid job numbers heading into 2022," Brie Reynolds, the career development manager and a career coach at FlexJobs, tells CNBC Make It. "But a big challenge employers are facing is how to keep their teams connected, engaged and also offer career growth opportunities — 'out of sight, out of mind' doesn't cut it." An August poll from Monster found that 86% of workers feel their professional growth has stalled as a result of the pandemic.
The skills required to thrive in a hybrid workplace bridge both home and corporate offices. To succeed in this environment, you need to become adept at navigating two different worlds. New research from FlexJobs and PAIRIN, a work software platform, identifies the five most important "soft skills," or interpersonal skills that focus on communication, leadership and teamwork. PAIRIN determined this ranking based on skills assessments submitted by supervisors and employees through their software, as well as data from O*NET, a public database that collects feedback from supervisors and employees in different industries.
Here are the top five soft skills hybrid employees should master, and how to practice them at work:
PAIRIN definition: "The drive to assist, protect and provide for others in emotional or physical need."
How to use this skill: "Check your schedule each morning and if you have a light day, reach out to the colleagues you work closest with and offer to help them out," Reynolds says. "Message them and say, 'Hey, I have some extra space in my schedule, can I take something off of your plate?' because that's kind and proactive."
PAIRIN definition: "To express and interact with boldness, enthusiasm and confidence."
How to use this skill: "If a manager is seeking ideas or feedback during a meeting, raise your hand, offer your opinion or vocalize support/add to a co-worker's idea," Reynolds says. "Even when you don't have something new to contribute, you can say, 'I really like this person's idea, it makes the most sense to me.'"
PAIRIN definition: "To maintain self-discipline and conform to another's plan, rules, will or direction."
How to use this skill: "Write out a to-list or develop a method for keeping track of the work you need to accomplish each day," Reynolds recommends. "But also show your manager or tell them how you're organizing yourself so they can see that you've got self-discipline and can be responsible for meeting the job's expectations without constant supervision."
PAIRIN definition: "The ability to effectively negotiate and resolve disagreements."
How to use this skill: "Assume mistake over malice when something goes wrong," Reynolds says. "We can't see physical cues that a co-worker is struggling over the computer like we might at the office, so it's better to problem solve, and offer solutions, versus name calling and creating an unnecessary conflict."
PAIRIN definition: "The drive to draw close and remain loyal to another person or people — to truly connect and enjoyably engage with them."
How to use this skill: "Start a meeting with some small talk, like, 'How was your weekend?' or 'What are you looking forward to this week?'" Reynolds suggests. "You should also plan 20 minute coffee chats with co-workers to learn more about them as a human outside of work and what their interests are to build a connection."
Working from home can be an excellent solution to improve focus as it minimizes in-office distractions like background noise or chatting with deskmates, but it can come at the expense of work relationships, Reynolds adds. "Bonding with co-workers is so much easier in an office when you're running into each other in the hallways or eating lunch together," she says. "In a remote environment, we have to be more thoughtful about checking in on people."
Another pitfall Reynolds has noticed among employees in a hybrid or remote environment is overworking. "Work is everywhere, all the time now," she explains. "Speak with your manager about scheduling expectations and make sure your colleagues know that you might not be reachable between certain hours … setting clear boundaries is really important to avoid burnout."
Building time into your schedule to develop these skills, whether it's practicing them during meetings or checking in on a co-worker, is beneficial for both your well-being and career growth. "All of these skills can help you have a good work day where you feel a sense of accomplishment," Reynolds says. "They also help you show your manager what you're capable of and lead to new opportunities as you move through your career." Even if you are applying for a new job, she adds, you can mention these skills during an interview or networking conversation, and how these tactics have made you a stronger employee and even better teammate.