The Unwritten Rules of the Remote Workplace | The Do’s and Don’ts by Etiquette Specialists
Initially adopted as a necessity, remote jobs have proven themselves as a long-term impact of Covid-19 on the global work culture. As we shift from one workplace to another, we feel the inescapable need to also adapt our behavior to a new unspoken social conduct. The question is: what are these implicit social manners?
Exploring and operating in a different setting can be challenging and, oftentimes, scary. Especially when you cannot rely on social cues only physical presence can provide. Fear not, we got you! To help you navigate this new environment with ease, we talked with two etiquette specialists about the do’s and don’ts of the remote workplace. Angie Allison and Jodi RR Smith reveal everything you need to know to avoid misunderstandings, time waste and, above all, awkward moments, in the virtual workplace.
What are the basic rules of etiquette to have in mind during a video call?
On this topic, both specialists seem to be on the same page instantly. When it comes to video call etiquette, you should essentially follow three golden rules: be prepared, be respectful, be aware.
1. “Come prepared. – states Angie Allison - Have all meeting notes, presentation materials, questions on the ready.”. Furthermore, it is equally important to check for any technical issue in advance. “If you are hosting the meeting, be sure to open the room and test the feed in enough time that if there is an issue, you can fix it. If you are attending, be sure to join the room a minute or two in advance to allow you time to adjust your camera if needed.” (Jodi RR Smith).
2. “Treat the video call just as you would an in-person meeting” (Angie Allison), with respect to your company values. When working from the comfort of your home, the lines get blurry more often than not. However, it is important to preserve a professional image and behavior. “Maintain your professional appearance by being camera ready. Present yourself and your background with neatness and attention to detail.” affirms Allison. Even more, “Dress from the ankles up.”, remembers Jodi RR Smith, “You may need to stand, and your entire outfit should be appropriate for the camera.”
3. Lastly, be extra aware of sounds and interruptions. In a digital setting, communication can be tricky and easily disrupted. “Unless otherwise instructed, the default is to have your camera on and your microphone off.” (Jodi RR Smith ). Moreover, when speaking “Be cognizant of distracting noises and sounds, such as clunky bracelets and typing on your keyboard, that can be amplified on audio” (Angie Allison). Allison also highlights the importance of being a good listener when achieving a smooth video call: “listen actively, listen for subtleties and paraphrase to clarify”.
How can you make up for the lack of spontaneous social interactions in the physical workplace without seeming too intrusive?
It is no secret that endorsing a strong sense of community is essential to build an efficient work team. It is also undeniable that not sharing a physical office can get in the way of that. When addressing this concern Jodi RR Smith is very clear: replace spontaneity with purposefulness. You will no longer be casually meeting your co-works in the break room but you can set up catch-up calls. Trade the team lunches for “emails of appreciation or even thank you notes and gifts to those who have been kind to you.” (Jodi RR Smith). As the etiquette specialist suggests: “You may (also) decide to both take a walk in your respective locations while speaking”.
COVID-19 had a real impact on the redefinition of personal boundaries. How can you ensure that everyone feels comfortable and safe in situations of physical presence?
The concepts of personal space and physical proximity may have been forever impacted after the global pandemic. Although it exists a powerful longing for our previous reality in general, not everyone is fully prepared to embrace the old ways just yet. Therefore, to ensure a healthy work environment it is vital to also guarantee that everyone feels respected and safe. According to Jodi RR Smith, pre-emptive etiquette is the solution in this case. “(…) set some behavioral expectations. (…) By letting people know what to expect in advance, it allows everyone to feel more at ease”. For example, you may state: “We are so excited to see everyone in the office on Thursday. We do ask that everyone refrain from shaking hands for the foreseeable future.” (Jodi RR Smith).
Angie Allison points out the importance of each person being comfortable and confident in setting boundaries themselves. “If you’re more comfortable giving a high five or a wave rather than a handshake, give that signal with a smile and a warm greeting.” says Allison. “(…) if you’ve been invited to a spontaneous outing and you’re not quite inclined to join yet, you could: Express your appreciation, and let the others know you’re just not ready or unable to, and look forward to getting together soon”. Alternatively, “Let them know you’d love to, however because of your personal safety reasons suggest an outdoor venue.” (Angie Allison).
Do you work as a remote? What is the biggest challenge you have been facing in the remote workplace? Let us know in the comments!
Angie Allison is the founder and CEO of the Daily Protocol, a project that provides expert, custom-tailored professional etiquette and personal development programs. For more information check their Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
Jordi RR Smith is an etiquette consultant specialized in social and professional conduct. Smith is also an author, and the president and owner of Mannersmith – a consulting etiquette company. Check her latest Linkedin Course: Navigating New Professional and Social Norms When Offices Reopen.