< These Work Skills Are Most Important During Pandemic and After
25 January 2021

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

The coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing down in many places around the world. So, many people who usually work in offices continue to work from home.

For some of them, working remotely may be something that will continue even after the pandemic ends. But working from home often requires different skills and ways of managing our work. So, it is important to learn ways to help us work productively in a remote environment.

VOA Learning English recently spoke with Natasha Olinger a human resources expert.

For 15 years, Olinger has managed human resources for several organizations in Washington, D.C. Olinger shares skills she says are most important during the pandemic -- and possibly after.

Technical (or hard) skills

Working from home means you need good technical skills, Olinger notes. Without an IT department close by, employees need to know how to fix video, phone, or computer issues that come up. In other words, we need to be tech-savvy.

"You might have to be more technologically-savvy now than you really have ever had to be, possibly because, you know, you worked in an office with an IT person, or whatever it is. Not only is that important right now but that's going to be important post-pandemic."

Technical skills are also called hard skills. However, to Olinger, they are not the most important skills to have when working remotely. She says soft skills are more important.

"The other thing that I think is really important in the pandemic and is going to be important post-pandemic -- really soft skills. And I think that doesn't necessarily get talked about a lot."

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 17, 2020 photo Kim Borton, left, works from home while her children Logan Borton, center, age 6 and Katie Borton, age 7, as they work on an art project in Beaverton, Ore.
FILE - In this Tuesday, March 17, 2020 photo Kim Borton, left, works from home while her children Logan Borton, center, age 6 and Katie Borton, age 7, as they work on an art project in Beaverton, Ore.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills, experts explain, are not about the knowledge you have. Instead, they control how you act in different situations – both on your own and with others. When dealing with other people, soft skills are sometimes called interpersonal skills.

Communicating clearly, working well with others, and supporting your co-workers are examples of other soft skills.

Experts at the employment company Indeed talked with 1,000 hiring managers. When asked to name the most important soft skills of their top-performing employees, the managers listed these five soft skills:

  1. Problem-solving
  2. Effective communication skills
  3. Self-direction (being able to work effectively on your own)
  4. Drive (a strong, natural to do well)
  5. Adaptability & Flexibility (the ability to work well in changing situations)

What is your EQ?

Soft skills are part of a person's EQ, or "emotional quotient." While IQ is a measure of a person's "intelligence quotient," EQ is a measure of a person's emotional intelligence.

Soft skills, Olinger explains, are harder to learn than technical skills. Also, there are not as many resources teaching soft skills.

"They call that ability to read people EQ or it's emotional intelligence -- instead of IQ. But they...they certainly study it. But yeah, there's not this plethora of online classes available to teach people this kinds of thing."

Even an expert such as Olinger ran into trouble. In the early days of the pandemic, she held many meetings with groups of people over the phone. This is when Olinger noticed one of her soft skills was weak. She was unsure if she was communicating clearly.

Without seeing the people and their visual cues -- a nod of the head to show they understand or a look of confusion on their face -- she could not tell if her meetings were effective. So, she decided to work on her own soft skills.

"It's not only crucial to build those soft skills because I don't have that in-person connection anymore. But it's also more important than ever because people need those soft skills right now."

Olinger says that during the pandemic, managers have been able to see how employees with strong soft skills help the organization. She calls soft skills the "glue that holds everything together." That means they are what keep the people in the workplace connected and able to work together.

"Soft skills are the glue that holds organizations together through times of crisis, like this, but also beyond. And so I really think that soft skill sets are really important now and I think that they are only going to grow in importance post pandemic."

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

remoteadj. being, relating to, or involving a means of doing or using something indirectly or from a distance : such as using or involving a network connection between computers or systems in different locations

manage v. to have control of (something, such as a business, department, sports team, etc.) : to take care of and make decisions about (someone's time, money, etc.)

ITn. abbreviation for Information Technology

tech-savvy n. practical know-how : example : tech-savvy to have strong technical skills

drive n. a strong, natural desire to do well

adaptability n. able to change or be changed in order to fit or work better in some situation or for some purpose : able to adapt or be adapted

flexibility n. easily changed : able to change or to do different things : willing to change or to try different things

plethoran. formal : a very large amount or number : an amount that is much greater than what is necessary

visual cue n. something you can see that serves as a signal or suggestion

crucial adj. extremely important

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