In the past few years, remote work has become a popular trend for many companies. However, not everyone is familiar with the remote work etiquette that should be followed. It’s essential to have proper communication and work habits when working remotely to ensure productivity, efficiency, and professionalism. In this article, we’ll explore nine guidelines to follow to improve your remote work etiquette.
1. Respect Your Colleagues’ Time
Imagine you’re in a meeting, waiting for a colleague to join, and they’re 10 minutes late. It’s frustrating, and it makes you question the value they place on your time. Don’t be that guy. Make sure you show up on time, and if you’re going to be late, communicate that to your team in advance. It sounds like a small thing, but trust me: it goes a long way.
If you’re sending messages outside of normal work hours, don’t be surprised if you don’t get an immediate response. Give your colleagues a break and let them enjoy some Netflix time. Not everything has to be a meeting; sometimes an email will do the trick.
Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack, once said, ‘You can’t do anything without rhythm.’ I absolutely subscribe to this way of thinking. In the context of remote work, this rhythm definitely includes everyone’s time and not constantly interrupting someone’s flow.
2. Be Mindful of Your Background
Ah, yes, the infamous background blunders. We’ve all been there, right? When it comes to virtual meetings, being mindful of your video background is an often-underestimated part of appearing professional.
If you’re in the middle of an important corporate meeting, you don’t want your colleagues to be distracted by your kiddos or pets running around in the background. Sure, your dog may be cute, but they don’t always look professional in a meeting. And nobody wants to see your partner in their pajamas strolling by behind you!
If your apartment is a mess or you’re working from a coffee shop, a virtual background is the way to go. You don’t want your colleagues to be distracted by your pile of laundry or your barista making your latte in the background.
I have a colleague in Canada who has a particularly genius solution to the background problem – a snowy backdrop! It’s like he’s in the middle of a winter wonderland, even when it’s 90 degrees outside. It’s a great way to add some personality to meetings while still maintaining a professional image. And given his location, it feels more than appropriate!
3. Be Mindful of Your Tone in Written Communication
Unlike in face-to-face conversations, it’s easy for your tone to be misinterpreted in written communication. This can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings, which can be especially tricky to navigate in a remote work environment.
Remember that time you sent an email to your boss with a joke, but they took it seriously. Awkward, right? Or that time you used all caps to emphasize a point, but it came across as shouting.
Avoid these situations by being clear in your written communication. Two good ideas for this are:
- Choose your words carefully: Think about the words you use and how they might be perceived by the reader. Avoid negative words or phrases and use positive language to keep things light. For especially difficult conversations, you might want to actually get on a call or use some Non-Violent Communication to soften your language.
- Emojis to the rescue: Emojis or emoticons can be a lifesaver when it comes to adding tone and context to your written communication. Need to indicate that you’re joking? Throw in a laughing face or a winky smile. Or want your colleague to recognize that you’re being sarcastic? Try the eye rolling emoji.
4. Remember That Not Everyone is in The Same Time Zone
Sure, you may remember that your other parties are in a different time zone, but do you take into account all factors when scheduling? For instance, is your proposed time going to interfere with their typical commute home? Are you asking them to be up super early in the morning? Either way, it’s not showing much consideration for their time.
You can use a tool like Calendly to help with this, or simply verify which time zone that someone is in before scheduling. When I schedule my calls to someone in a far-away time zone, I always give both times-mine and theirs. That way they know what time I expect to get on, as well as what time that is for them. On more than one occasion, this tactic has helped avoid incorrect timing because one of us saw an error (time zone mistake, time change errors, etc).
5. Dress Appropriately
There was a study done by the NPD Group, and they found that only 10 percent of people get dressed for working at home. That really surprised me when I read it. Me personally, I need to get dressed for work, especially a work call. It’s part of my routine! It helps me get in the right mindset about what I need to do.
I genuinely believe that dressing well can actually have a positive impact on your work. When you look good, you feel good, and that confidence can translate into working more professionally and efficiently. Even if you’re not meeting with clients or colleagues face-to-face, dressing appropriately can help you get into a work mindset and be more productive.
Now, I’m not saying you have to wear a suit and tie or a fancy dress every day. Let’s not get carried away here. But making a little effort in your appearance can go a long way. Maybe swap out those pajamas for a comfy pair of jeans or a casual skirt.
6. Mute Your Microphone When Necessary
It’s unfortunate that this isn’t a given. When someone is being unnecessarily loud on a conference/video call and they haven’t muted their mic, I make a point to tell them. The worst is when someone is driving and they STILL don’t mute their phone. Ugh, so frustrating!
I try to be patient in these situations, especially if the person in question is new to remote working. I’ve been remote for almost 15 years now, so it’s second nature to me, but not everyone has gone through those experiences. I try to keep that in mind.
So instead, I’ll politely ask them to mute their mic while they aren’t talking (assuming someone else on the call doesn’t beat me to it!).
7. Test Your Audio and Video Settings in Advance
In my experience, this most often happens with video, or VOIP phone lines. Sometimes the connection is horrible because you’re in a poor spot, or the camera quality is really just that bad. Either way, it makes for an unpleasant call.
In extreme cases, this can result in the call being postponed or cancelled altogether. There are two ways that you can avoid this:
- Test your damn equipment! If the call is that important, you better make sure that everything is ready to go. In my opinion, there’s no excuse here.
- Have backup equipment ready. I have multiple headphones for this reason. On some of my video calls, my Bose headphones won’t work. I literally have no clue why it isn’t consistent, but alas, they aren’t. So when this happens, I quickly get a pair of wired headphones out of my bag and I’m good to go. This is harder with video gear, but could still apply for you if you’re just using a small webcam.
8. Introduce Yourself and Your Team
It’s a pet peeve of mine when I join someone else’s call and they neglect to introduce their team members on the call. I think most people who have been working remotely are better at remembering this, but sometimes even they commit this offense.
I find it helpful to introduce yourself as soon as there’s anyone on the call, and then introduce your team members all at once. I suggest giving their name, as well as their job role since it will very likely be necessary for everyone on the call to have the right context.
9. Meeting Participation Guidelines
I’ve never created guidelines like this personally, but I was once part of a meeting whose employees had. It was interesting to see. There was no interrupting, no loud background interruptions, etc. It made the meeting extremely efficient!
Additional guidelines might also include organized turn-taking and purposeful clarifying questions. This helps move the conversation well but ensures no one gets lost along the way.
It’s can be easy to forget about manners and general etiquette when working remotely, but if you can make these suggestions a habit, you’ll be in a much better spot to make a positive impression.
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.