What is proper remote working etiquette? We know, it’s difficult to navigate the concept of ‘professionalism’ when many of us are working in makeshift home offices, at dining room tables, and a not-insignificant portion of the staff is probably in pajama pants.
As many of us settle into the fact that we’ll be doing this for quite some time, we’re perhaps coming to realize that we need a bit of structure and/or guidance on what the new normal’s business-as-usual meeting etiquette looks like.
When it comes to fostering professional communication across your organization in a virtual venue, there are a few areas of remote work etiquette that you’ll need to address. They can be broadly sorted into three buckets:
This should go without saying, right? Respect that everyone has pressures on their time, and make an effort to be punctual.
Mute yourself when joining, particularly if there are multiple people in the call already. Then say hello when there’s a lull.
For most workplaces, casual clothing is probably fine. Consider what’s appropriate for your office and corporate culture — hoodies, sure, explicit graphic tees … maybe not. And yes, always remember that you never know 100% that you won’t need to get up for something mid-Zoom session!
Try to minimize the amount of noise for the sake of your colleagues. If you’ve scheduled meetings, try not to run the laundry machine that’s 6 feet behind you (just me?). Don’t worry too much about a few stray dog barks or kids laughing in the background. Most people understand, and we’ve got mute buttons for a reason.
Recognize that different people are going to have different challenges working from home. Some may struggle with space, technical setup, internet speeds, other occupants, and other responsibilities. Do your best to be understanding.
Recognize that hard time limits still exist, even if people aren’t commuting or rushing to another meeting. There is a very real risk, when everyone’s office is their home, of blurring the lines between work-time and home-time, so respect the boundaries your colleagues might set between the two.
Make space in the conversation. It can be hard to pick up cues that someone is done talking or waiting to speak even without video lag, so make sure to leave a bit more time after asking questions or making statements to allow people to turn on their mic and respond.
Acknowledging the difficulty of the situation and making it explicitly clear that you’ll be flexible and understanding with your colleagues can do a lot to cut away additional stress. Let them focus on the task at hand, and not whether the chew toy they’ve given their pandemic puppy will keep them quiet for the full length of the meeting.
If you live with a partner or roommate(s), take some time to go over daily schedules and needs. Check if they have a client call and need a shared office space to be quieter, for example. Give them an idea of when you’ll be (un)available, and ask them for the same information.
It goes without saying, doesn’t it? The people in your home are dealing with the same factors as the people you’re working with, be kind.
Step 1: Get some fresh air, and if you live with others, encourage them to do so as well. If your situation allows, go for a walk. Take out your kid, dog, or hey, even your cactus for some vitamin D.
Step 2: Try to keep your work environment a little bit separated from your home. Everyone needs somewhere to retire to at the end of the day. Whether you have the luxury of leaving your home office, or you just tuck your laptop away on a shelf, let home be home for at least part of the day. It’s a small task that will benefit the whole household’s mental wellbeing.
Erin Raimondo has been working in communications for more than a decade. Starting out in public relations, she moved through agency work, corporate communications, and a quick pit-stop in marketing project management, to find her home in internal communications. She sees internal communications as a powerful tool to make a positive impact on the people that make up organizations. Erin is currently working as a communications specialist advising on internal communications best practices.
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