5 Ways to Be a Savvier Remote Worker

Experts say remote workers can—but aren’t—stepping up their tech skills to operate better at home.

When the pandemic hit, everyone’s top tech tasks were finding where the Wi-Fi worked best in the house, figuring out how to log in to their work accounts remotely, and learning how to mute—or unmute themselves—on videoconference calls.

It’s about a year later now, and while nearly everyone has mastered the basics, experts say many employees still feel—and are—technologically behind the curve. Companies have changed software systems, and many of us have logged tens or hundreds of hours on video calls. The more advanced your skill set, career pros say, the better you’ll be at navigating the awkwardness of virtual-speak—and impressing managers. Below, five pursuits that may help as we enter year two of the remote-work era.

Be video-call multilingual.

In prioritizing speed when the pandemic started, most firms set up their suddenly remote workforce with whatever videoconferencing service came to mind first. But after many months, companies have had time to compare services and many have switched. The switch might give organizations the capabilities they want, but it has created some awkward moments for employees who became used to the earlier software.

For instance, the camera for Microsoft Teams captures a wider image than Zoom. All that stuff you slid out of the camera frame may now be visible. Other software-switching-inspired mix-ups include not knowing how to turn presentations on, using the wrong headphone settings, and using background images that don’t render properly. “On literally every other call, people are asking one another for tips on how their new video-call software works,” says Ilene Gochman, Korn Ferry’s global head of assessment and succession solutions.

These snafus might be irrelevant in front of longtime coworkers, but they can be embarrassing or worse when the video meeting is a job interview or a high-powered business negotiation. “You have to be adept at multiple platforms,” Gochman says.

Use two monitors.

Many people have been working on laptop computers during the pandemic, straining to see words and pictures on a tiny screen. Experts suggest making some additional space on the kitchen table, or wherever you are working, to add a second monitor. A second screen, even a small one, can help employees relieve eye strain and make a remote-work setup more ergonomically friendly.

There could be a work bonus, too. Second monitors can increase workers’ productivity by as much as 42%, according to Jon Peddie Research, a consulting firm that specializes in the technical graphics and multimedia fields. Many users report they can pick out small details faster on two monitors than they would on just one, while others say they would have missed things completely without a second screen.

Take a course.

An increasing number of companies are offering free online courses for employees to learn virtual presentation skills, time-saving ways to use business software staples, and a slew of other skills. Brian Bloom, Korn Ferry’s vice president of global benefits, says these perks help both employees and the company. Individual employees gain new levels of tech competency, while the company gets smarter, more productive employees.

Learn to speak IT.

No matter how tech savvy employees become, there will inevitably be an issue that stymies them, forcing a call to the organization’s IT department. Experts suggest a few basic tips to help make the process go more smoothly: Be prepared to explain the problem clearly before picking up the phone or typing in the “help” chat box. Thoroughly describe when the problem started, what the error message (if there is any) says exactly, and what actions you already took to try to fix the issue. Finally, don’t be emotional, experts recommend.

Amp up the energy.

One of the savviest fixes to tech doesn’t involve any gadgets, just your energy levels. Zoom fatigue (the catch-all name for the exhaustion many feel after so many video calls), is extremely transparent on-screen. Experts say that people can overcome tired audiences—whether it’s one job recruiter or a staff meeting of 20—by being energic, enthusiastic, and positive. Be upbeat and animated when telling your story, particularly if it’s a job interview, says Nancy Von Horn, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. “If you can leave the interviewer feeling comfortable, at ease with you, and with more positive feelings than negative, that’s memorable,” she says.