Digital Skills for Remote Work

The gig economy has been significantly moulded by technological advances and for the most part, technology plays a crucial role in facilitating gig work.

The most important reasons to use the latest software and technology are:

  • to ensure that communication, collaboration and productivity are possible, and
  • to protect your data and intellectual property.

But, before you start building an IT stack that can accommodate remote, short-term projects, it is important to identify the specific needs and workflows of a gig-based workforce. Consider the types of tasks they perform, collaboration requirements, and the tools that would enhance their productivity

As a contract worker in a remote setting, you will most likely need to create various written documents, as part of your job responsibilities. This may include drafting emails, designing presentations, or composing reports. To accomplish these tasks efficiently, it is imperative that you are proficient in using word processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

At the very least, you must possess the skills to properly format documents, insert images and videos as needed, create hyperlinks to external sources, and utilise other available features to enhance the presentation and readability of your work. Having competency in these basic functions of a word processor is essential for producing professional, polished documents in a remote work setting.

Learning Objectives

  • Demonstrate competency in using word processing software by applying styles, leveraging templates, inserting tables and images, and utilising other tools for document creation and collaboration.
  • Explain the benefits of cloud-based document sharing platforms and list key features like co-editing, access permissions, workflows, and integrations that facilitate team collaboration.
  • Identify best practices for hosting and participating in virtual meetings via video conferencing tools, including agenda preparation, tech setup, time zone coordination, etiquette, and active engagement.
  • Discuss how project management software helps organise workflows, tasks, resources, timelines, and collaboration.
  • Build a personal technology stack by determining must-have tools for communication, collaboration, productivity tailored to remote work needs.

Document Management

The surge in remote workers since the Covid-19 pandemic underscores the importance of effective document management. An issue that already existed pre-pandemic has only intensified with the shift to distributed teams. A study conducted before Covid found that the vast majority of employees, around 93 percent, have difficulty locating files due to ineffective naming conventions or organisational systems. For companies with workers split between office and home, lack of document control can seriously hamper collaboration, productivity, and access to information. Without standardised protocols, version control and structured digital storage, documents are easily misplaced, outdated copies proliferate, and teams waste time searching instead of working. While messy documentation may go unnoticed in office settings, the remote environment magnifies these inefficiencies. Implementing organised naming protocols, centralised cloud storage, and access permissions can help ensure documents are findable and usable regardless of employee location.

Here are some more specific word processing capabilities that are important to master as a remote worker who regularly writes and edits documents:

  • Styles – Become adept at applying heading styles, body text styles, and other quick formatting to provide consistent structure and appearance to documents.
  • Templates – Learn to leverage pre-designed templates in Word and Docs to quickly setup common document types like letters, memos, reports, etc.
  • Tables – Know how to insert, format, and modify tables to present data and lists in a clear and organised manner.
  • References – Use features like footnotes, endnotes, captions, and bibliography generation to properly cite sources and references in documents.
  • Track Changes – Use track changes/version history features to efficiently collaborate on documents with other remote colleagues.
  • Navigation – Understand how to quickly navigate lengthy documents using headings, page numbers, table of contents, and find features.
  • Sharing – Be able to correctly share/export documents in appropriate formats and optimise them for printing.
  • Accessibility – Check documents for accessibility issues and use tools to improve readability for those with disabilities.
  • Security – Use password protection and other security tools to safely share sensitive documents.

Collaboration in Remote Work

For the most part, becoming a remote worker requires a little more than a willingness to work outside a physical workspace—you need to translate some basic in-office skills to the virtual world. This means there are some tech skills you need to have and showcase on your resume to qualify for remote opportunities.

Gig workers often need to collaborate with remote teams. Embracing shared document workspaces leads to organised, transparent content creation powered by centralised access and collaboration capabilities for enhanced productivity. Cloud-based document sharing platforms like Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, and Box allow for seamless content collaboration in remote teams.

Key capabilities include:

  • Real-time co-editing – Multiple people can simultaneously edit a document, spreadsheet, presentation from any location. platforms track contributions by authors. This facilitates rapid collaborative content creation across teams.
  • Permission management – Files and folders can be precisely shared with individuals or teams with customizable levels of access – view, comment, edit etc. Permissions can be changed anytime. This maintains privacy and control.
  • Workflows – Tasks like reviews, approvals and publishing can be automated through workflows to move content through creation pipelines efficiently. Critical for structured content processes.
  • Integrations – Native integrations with communication, email, calendar tools results in centralised content that is always accessible. Smooth handoffs between tools.

Video Conferencing for Seamless Communication

Video conferencing has become an essential technology for collaboration and communication in remote teams. Platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet provide robust tools for conducting virtual meetings, webinars, conference calls and more. This unit provides an overview of popular video conferencing solutions and their key capabilities.

Zoom is a popular, easy-to-use video meeting platform. Its flexible plans support meetings from small huddles to large company events. Key features include scalable meeting capacity, screen sharing, recording, breakout rooms, and secure encryption. Zoom offers integration across devices and platforms for consistent access.

Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that includes video conferencing within its suite of tools. Useful features include calendar integration, file sharing, chat and channels, and virtual breakout spaces. Teams provide enterprise-grade security and scales from small groups up to larger communities.

Google Meet offers a reliable video meeting experience right within the Google Workspace productivity suite. Key features include simple scheduling, screen sharing, real-time captions, attendance tracking, and compatibility across devices. Integration with other Workspace apps allows for seamless content sharing and collaboration before, during, and after the meeting.

Understanding the array of video conferencing solutions and their relative strengths and limitations is key for determining the best platform based on a team’s size, workstyle, security needs and collaboration requirements. With the right tools, video meetings can mirror in-person engagement and power effective remote work.

Best Practices for Hosting and Participating in Virtual Meetings

For meeting hosts:

  • Send a clear agenda and any relevant content ahead of the meeting so participants can prepare –  Whether they are virtual or face to face, meetings should always have an agenda. Without one, you can easily find your meeting wandering off-track. Agendas are also a good way of stopping virtual meetings from dragging on too long.You can ask attendees in advance if they have any agenda items.
  • Ensure all technology and AV equipment is set up and tested before the meeting starts – Tech issues are the most common disruptions to virtual meetings.If you’re using new, test it before the meeting. If you’re using a new platform, for the first time make sure you learn to use the basic functionalities at the very least.
  • Coordinate between time-zones –  The biggest barrier to effective remote collaboration is efficient time-zone coordination. You should be respectful of people’s time zones. For example, don’t schedule a meeting for 10 a.m. CET if you have colleagues in New York. They would have to wake up at 4 a.m. to make that meeting!
  • Start meetings on time and kick things off with a quick overview of the agenda –Facilitate introductions if there are any new attendees Outline expectations and guidelines for participation (mute/unmute, chat, raise hand etc).
  • Keep attendees engaged – Engagement is the cornerstone of a successful online meeting. The worst meetings are where one person speaks for a long time and everyone zones out. Participant interaction is the best way to boost engagement. Use screen sharing to showcase relevant documents or presentations as well as breakout rooms and collaborative boards for brainstorming.
  • Don’t make it longer than it needs to be – Shorter durations keep people engaged and focused on the goal. Always consider how long you need before organising. For longer virtual sessions, take breaks every 45 mins.
  • Recap action items and next steps at the end  – You can also share meeting minutes or recordings afterwards. Most meeting applications now offer meeting summaries and recordings that help keep everyone aligned.

For participants:

  • Review pre-reads and meeting agenda ahead of the session and log in 5-10 mins early to test your tech setup and get settled.
  • Mute microphone when not speaking to minimise background noise.
  • Dress appropriately and position camera at eye level and adjust lighting so you are visible.
  • Engage actively through chat, reactions and by unmuting to speak up.
  • Limit distractions by closing unnecessary windows and giving full attention.
  • Avoid multitasking which is more obvious on camera.
  • Use headphones if possible for better sound quality.

In-person meetings are subject to many spoken and unspoken rules of human interaction. Virtual meetings should be no different. You will still need to prepare, dress professionally and ensure that everyone is engaged through open lines of communication.

Project Management Software

Project management software is used to plan, organise, and allocate resources for managing projects. It helps teams collaborate and keep track of the project’s progress while clearly defining tasks and responsibilities. It lets project managers control costs and time and allows smooth collaboration between stakeholders.

The strategic use of project management tools is vital in achieving efficiency and success. Giggers can enhance their productivity through popular project management tools such as Asana, Trello, and YouTrack.

Key Features of Project Management Tools:

  • Creating workflows to streamline processes and automate routines
  • Managing tasks, to-do lists, calendars to facilitate efficiency
  • Collaborative task assignment, progress tracking, status updates
  • Integrations with other tools to centralise information
Asana
  • Intuitive Task Boards: Visualization of tasks for effective organisation and prioritisation.
  • Timeline View: Dynamic timeline representation for accurate project tracking.
  • Customizable Workflows: Tailoring workflows to accommodate diverse project management methodologies.
Trello
  • Kanban boards: Streamlining tasks through movable cards across customizable boards.
  • Power-Ups: Enhancing functionality through integrations for added customization.
  • Collaborative Checklists: Ensuring task completion with collaborative checklists within cards.
YouTrack
  • Agile Boards: Visualise and manage tasks with agile boards, allowing teams to organise work using Scrum, Kanban, or a customised agile methodology.
  • Customizable Workflows: Tailor workflows to match the unique processes and requirements of your team, ensuring seamless project progression.
  • Issue Tracking: Robust issue tracking capabilities, enabling teams to log, prioritise, and resolve issues efficiently.
SmartSheet
  • Grid View: Organise tasks and projects in a spreadsheet-like grid for a familiar and intuitive interface.
  • Gantt Charts: Utilise Gantt charts to create visual timelines, track project progress, and manage dependencies effectively.
  • Automations: Enhance functionality and automate routine tasks by setting up rules and workflows, increasing overall project efficiency.
Click Up
  • Flexible project tracking – Jira provides a variety of project tracking features that can be customised to fit different team workflows.
  • ClickUp allows teams to manage projects and tasks using lists, boards, calendars, and Gantt charts.
  • Robust support and add-ons – As one of the most popular project management tools, Click Up has a vast ecosystem of support, add-ons, and extensions.

Communicating with Clients

Cultivating good communication etiquette builds trust and reliability between co-workers separated by distance. Thoughtful written communication via emails or messaging, compensates for the richer contextual cues of in-person exchanges.

Top 12 rules of email etiquette:

  1. Use a direct subject line – The subject line should clearly state the topic of the email so the recipient knows what it is regarding.
  2. Use a professional email address – Avoid using nicknames or unprofessional handles like partygirl@ as your work email address.
  3. Use the reply all button sparingly – Only include people who need to receive the reply to avoid flooding inboxes.
  4. Add a professional email signature – Include your contact information and company branding.
  5. Use professional greetings – Stick to “Hi [Name]” or “Dear [Name]” rather than informal greetings.
  6. Be careful when using humour – Tone can be lost over email so humour may not come across well.
  7. Reply to all your emails – Promptly respond even if just to say you received it and will follow up.
  8. Always proofread before pressing send – Check for typos, errors, unclear language.  Typos or lazy shorthand can convey lack of polish or professionalism. Write using full sentences in a professional tone. Employ spellcheck.
  9. Add the email address last – Put the recipient’s address in the last step after drafting so you don’t accidentally send the message before you have finished writing.
  10. Keep your fonts simple and classic – Stick to easy to read fonts and avoid unusual colours.
  11. Consider cultural differences – Be aware of different communication norms in other cultures.
  12. Consider your tone – Avoid coming across as aggressive or informal. Be polite and cordial.

Let’s look at some best practices for remote communication:

  • Be clear and concise – Craft your emails and messages clearly and concisely to avoid miscommunication. State your purpose and key points upfront. Use formatting to highlight important details. Proofread before sending.
  • Reply promptly – Since non-verbal cues are lacking at a distance, timely replies are important. Respond to queries within 24 hours whenever possible. If delayed, send a quick acknowledgement.
  • Adapt your style – Emulate the stylistic conventions your team uses. Formal corporations have different standards versus startups. If unsure, go for a  more formal tone in your writing.
  • Communicate your availability – Share your core working hours and offline times so people know when to expect your responses. State if you have bandwidth for quick questions during personal time.
  • Notify if messages are urgent – If a request needs imminent attention, flag emails as high-priority requests so colleagues can respond promptly.

Scenarios

Content Writer’s Website Briefing

Sarah, a content writer, meets with Mark, her client, to discuss the content for Mark’s upcoming e-commerce website. Mark is launching a platform for handmade jewellery and wants the website’s content to emphasise the uniqueness and quality of their products. He conveys the importance of a warm, friendly, and informative tone, reflecting the brand’s mission, which revolves around celebrating individuality and craftsmanship.

Mark outlines the types of content he needs for the website, including product descriptions that highlight the materials used and the stories behind each piece, a blog to share artisan stories, jewellery care tips, and the latest trends, and an about page that narrates the brand’s journey. The target audience for this jewellery brand primarily comprises women aged 25-45, who appreciate artisanal craftsmanship, seek unique, timeless jewellery, and value authenticity.

Sarah discusses her ability to handle keyword research and SEO requirements for the website’s content, given Mark’s limited research in this area. They also touch upon the importance of an agreed-upon timeline and the number of revision rounds to ensure the content aligns with the brand’s vision and goals.

Mark expresses his eagerness to work with Sarah and trusts her expertise to craft content that resonates with the brand’s audience and mission. The meeting concludes with Sarah promising to draft a proposal outlining the project’s scope, timeline, and pricing, setting the stage for the creative process ahead.

Role Play

Characters
Sarah: Content Writer
Mark: Client

Scene: A cosy cafe, where Sarah and Mark have met to discuss the content for Mark’s new website.

Sarah: (sips her coffee) Thanks for meeting with me, Mark. I’m excited to help you with your website content. Can you tell me more about your project and what you’re looking for?

Mark: (smiles) Of course, Sarah. I’m launching a new e-commerce platform for handmade jewellery, and I want the website to reflect the uniqueness and quality of our products. It’s crucial that the content stands out.

Sarah: (nods) That sounds like a great project! Could you provide me with some more details? What’s your brand’s mission, vision, and values? Do you have any specific tone or style in mind for the content?

Mark: Our brand is all about celebrating individuality and craftsmanship. We want to convey a sense of authenticity and uniqueness. The tone should be warm, friendly, and informative. We aim to educate our customers about the artistry behind each piece.

Sarah: That’s a great starting point. What kind of content are you looking for? Do you need product descriptions, a blog, an about page, or something else?

Mark: We need it all. Product descriptions that highlight the materials used and the story behind each piece. A blog to share our artisans’ stories, jewellery care tips, and the latest trends. And an about page that tells our brand’s journey.

Sarah: (jots down notes) Perfect. Let’s discuss the target audience. Who are your ideal customers, and what problems or needs does your jewellery address?

Mark: Our target audience is predominantly women aged 25-45 who appreciate artisanal craftsmanship and unique, timeless jewellery. They value authenticity and seek meaningful pieces that fit different occasions.

Sarah: Excellent. Have you conducted any keyword research or SEO requirements for your website, or would you like me to handle that aspect as well?

Mark: I haven’t done much research on that front. I would appreciate your expertise in incorporating SEO-friendly content to improve our search engine visibility.

Sarah: Not a problem. Lastly, do you have any specific deadlines in mind for the content, and how would you like to handle revisions?

Mark: We aim to launch the website in three months, so we’ll need content ready well in advance. As for revisions, let’s discuss a reasonable number of rounds to ensure we get the perfect content.

Sarah: (smiles) Thank you for sharing all these details, Mark. I’m excited to work on this project with you. I’ll draft a proposal that outlines the scope, timeline, and pricing, and we can go from there.

Mark: I appreciate your help, Sarah. I’m looking forward to seeing your proposal and working together to bring our brand’s story to life.

(They finish their meeting, both looking forward to the creative process ahead.)

Assessment

  1. What is the primary focus of Relationship Marketing?
  2. Personalised marketing aims to create interactions that feel like:
  3. What is the key benefit of strong customer engagement for businesses?
  4. Brand storytelling is a marketing strategy that:
  5. Social Media Engagement emphasises creating polished and curated content to resonate with modern consumers.
  6. What does the Conversion Rate KPI measure in digital marketing?
  7. What is the purpose of A/B Testing in marketing analytics?
  8. Which social media platform is known for disappearing photo and video messages, augmented reality filters, and Stories?
  9. What is the primary goal of Thought Leadership in the digital age?
  10. What is the strategy of dividing customers into distinct groups based on demographics, behaviors, and preferences to tailor marketing efforts more precisely?
  11. What is the significant component of marketing automation that involves guiding prospects through the customer journey using automated emails and interactions?
  12. What is the term for the marketing strategy that revolves around designing memorable and interactive encounters to deeply engage customers with the brand?