Working from home : 8 competencies to master in times of uncertainty

Discover tips and tricks for developing the competencies you need to perform well in telecommuting and why they are important.

Work Environment

Sandra Rainville

Potential and Psychometric Evaluation Consultant

Thursday, November 12, 2020


With the pandemic, employees and managers had to improvise new ways to work and collaborate remotely overnight. As a result, teleworking is a need that has become much more pronounced in recent months and has quickly evolved from a benefit to a necessity.

Companies, managers, and especially human resources professionals must now identify what talents are needed to be effective in teleworking in a context of crisis and uncertainty. Your employees and managers must continue to adapt to this new reality, and you can support them to ensure business continuity.

In this blog, we present you with the eight competencies needed to be an effective teleworker in a crisis context, why these competencies are important as well as tips and tricks to help develop them.

Enjoy the read!

1. Tolerance of ambiguity

Being tolerant of ambiguity is important in a crisis context, as it is a key competency that allows one to be open and willing to give the best of oneself in an uncertain environment. Employees who are tolerant to ambiguity will be able to adapt easily and act compliantly in situations of change and uncertainty, when faced with unclear and abstract issues. By being more comfortable with areas of unknowns, they will be able to adjust with less resistance to new strategies and ways of operating and are more likely to stay in a positive state. This helps to maintain a good atmosphere and a work climate that promotes well-being and performance.

To increase their tolerance for ambiguity, employees can take the following advice: when there are times when the way to do something is not completely clear to them or when they don’t have all the data in hand, they need to remember that things will become clearer along the way and how mistakes and iterations allow for learning and making positive and timely changes. It is important to trust the process, to make sure you move forward despite the fear. It is also helpful to minimize expressions of frustration and criticism that could undermine the morale of other team members. Another interesting aspect would be to give yourself a mandate to help your team structure the new normal.

2. Adaptability

Being adaptable is essential in a crisis context. Adaptable employees can question themselves and are flexible, open, and creative in the face of obstacles and numerous changes.

For employees who wish to develop this competency, it is desirable to set a goal of getting out of their comfort zone at least once a week by suggesting a new way of functioning, challenging themselves to do things they have been hesitating to do for a while, that they don’t want to do or that are out of the ordinary and out of their usual routine. This will encourage them to use different methods and try new things. It is also recommended to take notes on how they feel after doing it, to reinforce satisfaction and to allow them to see the benefits associated with their new, more flexible approach.

3. Managing priorities

Managing priorities and focusing on the essentials in a teleworking and crisis context makes it possible to deliver despite a heavy workload and more changes than normal. It is important to know how to make the best use of your time to optimize your performance and efficiency. When employees master this competency, it will allow them to better manage their work time, reduce their stress and be prepared for the unexpected.

To improve their priority management, employees can identify what is urgent and important to their duties as well as what is secondary and what can be delegated (when possible). In order to prioritize more effectively, they can use a rating or color scale to prioritize their actions (e.g. 9-8= urgent; 7-6= important; 5-4= can wait 1 week; 3-2 can wait 2-3 weeks; 0-1= to be delegated), considering the activities that have the most added value, the activities that have the most impact on revenues, expense control and the sustainability of the business. At a time when the stakes are high, employees, and especially managers, must learn to master the art of putting their efforts where it really counts and to assume with confidence their choice of priorities.

4. Perseverance

Perseverance is a particularly important ingredient in achieving the objectives set despite the many obstacles that each company has encountered in recent months. Persevering employees do not give up easily, have a good mood that is difficult to alter, keep their goals in mind without being discouraged by setbacks and without taking rejection or criticism too personally. Being perseverant is therefore a very important characteristic to have.

To improve this competency, it is desirable to develop a list of tasks/responsibilities that are key and necessary to achieve the set objectives and which contribute the most to getting out of the crisis. Furthermore, target those you have the least fun with and tend to delay. Identify what you have not achieved and what stresses you out because you have already waited too long. Then, systematically set aside two hours each week to complete the tasks/responsibilities that you tend to procrastinate with. Call this time the anti-procrastination moment and make sure that you put a lot of energy into acting on what you are least tempted by and which requires a lot of energy from you. Then pay attention to the satisfaction you will get from doing the right things that will help you achieve your goals and maintain your good habits.

5. Action Oriented

Action-oriented employees will have a desire to make things happen, individually or in groups. Being able to master this competency allows them to remain motivated in contexts of change and uncertainty.

To be action-oriented, it is necessary to move quickly without having all the information available. It also means having the willingness to wait for challenges, not being neutralized by stress and uncertainty, not being afraid of making mistakes and being criticized. To improve this competency, you need to act, even if there is a certain level of unknown and uncertainty. It is important to accept working in agile mode; to start projects with the assumption that there will be iterations, changes, and modifications along the way, and that is normal. It is also necessary to accept that it is impossible, especially in times of crisis, for things not to change.

6. Stress and Emotion Management

Negative stress can be caused by an overload of work, too many responsibilities, unrealistic goals, insufficient means available, a feeling of not having control over the situation, a toxic work climate and many other factors. It is important to know how to manage stress and emotions while working, especially in a new context of crisis and telework. Stress management is a competency that leads to better self-knowledge, better action, and better energy management in the long term.

To develop this competency, employees must ensure that they maintain a healthy lifestyle (diet, physical activity, sleep, social contact even at a distance). It is also important to be aware of what drains energy at work and to take steps to remedy the situation. Each employee has the responsibility to set his or her limits and to ask that he or she be solicited for his or her natural strengths, to rely on his or her natural talents. Each organization also has the responsibility to do a self-examination to give realistic goals and the resources needed to achieve them. More than ever, each organization has the responsibility to set guidelines for telework operations so that it encroaches as little as possible on each employee’s private life. As a small example, determining time slots where your employees will not be allowed to organize virtual meetings (before 9am, at lunch, after 5pm) sends a message and minimizes the possibility of overwork.

7. Self-confidence

Self-confidence is the ability to be confident in one’s own abilities, to demonstrate self-confidence and to be little influenced by a need to please. It allows you to prioritize and make choices and requests for the right reasons and in a timely manner.

Building self-confidence can easily be the work of a lifetime, but your employees can start by ensuring that they always ask themselves the following questions when making decisions or interacting with others:

  • Am I making this decision to please someone?
  • If I did not need to please, would I make the same decision?
  • Would a self-confident colleague make the same decisions I would?
  • Would this same confident colleague dare to take on this project or responsibility if he or she had the same assets as I do?
  • Do I wait or avoid moving because of a lack of confidence?
  • Do I avoid asking for help or delegating because of a lack of confidence or fear of displeasing?

These questions allow us to avoid being led by fear of displeasure and lack of confidence and to take control by acting and making the right decisions, even if they are difficult and unpopular.

8. Interpersonal Communication

Optimizing interpersonal communications is more complex than ever in a world of teleworking and uncertainty. Interpersonal communication begins with the ability to foster optimal two-way communication adapted to individuals and contexts. Interpersonal communication will help employees better communicate who they are, their motivations, their expectations and to pass on messages directly while promoting collaboration.

For employees who wish to develop this competency, it will be essential to learn to listen actively to others without interrupting them, to try to understand them (empathy) and to listen to their non-verbal language. Active listening also means validating your understanding and reformulating the speaker’s message as needed. It is essential that each employee is aware of the emotions he/she is experiencing and the impact of his/her messages on others.

Each employee must be aware of his/her own non-verbal language that says a lot and that can greatly support a message (consistency between non-verbal and words) or cancel the impact of what is said verbally, even if the intentions are good.

Discover the natural characteristics and talents of your teams

In addition to assessing the competencies of your employees in the context of crisis and teleworking, it is also suggested to evaluate the natural characteristics and talents of your employees in this new environment and thus build on their natural strengths. The development of an individual’s competencies will be much faster if the competency assessment is high and correlated to an accurate psychometric analysis.

AtmanCo has developed, together with independent researchers, clients and experts, a comprehensive bank of 60 competencies that identify measurable characteristics of an individual that are associated with success in the performance of his or her duties. A competency can be a behavioral competency, a technical competency, an attribute, or an attitude.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get more fresh content delivered right to your inbox to help you hire smarter, lead stronger, and grow better.