Remote work etiquette – yes, it’s a thing, and, no, it doesn’t mean you have to wear pants for Zoom meetings.
Things used to be simple. Greet the receptionist, knock before entering someone’s office, don’t touch stuff on someone else’s desk, don’t text during a meeting – office etiquette was pretty clear-cut when most of us worked in person. Even on your first day, you could just mimic what the others were doing and get by just fine.
But now that many of us are working remotely or in a hybrid capacity, things are slightly different – no receptionist to greet, no doors to knock on, and nobody to call you out when you scroll TikTok during a meeting.
The online world with its many tools and distributed teams demands different rules of conduct from the office one and not everyone finds them easy to pick up. Sure, for some people, it comes naturally; but for others, it’s a struggle. And that’s fine – it’s the reason why we’re putting together this article.
In it, we’ll take a look at 10 remote work etiquette rules you should know so that you can be the best remote colleague you can be, leave a positive impression on your peers and bosses, and maintain your own sanity.
Work from home rules! As long as you follow these 10 work from home rules
Remote work etiquette isn’t there to complicate your life. On the contrary – by putting in just a little bit of effort, we can make our work lives easier, more productive, and more enjoyable.
And let’s be real – you’re already somewhat familiar with what the work from home etiquette encompasses. After all, a lot of us have already been working in a remote or hybrid capacity for a while.
So, let’s just put it all together so we all have a handy definitive list for remote work etiquette.
1. Keep others informed about your availability
One of the chief benefits people enjoy about remote work is flexibility, whether it’s starting a bit earlier/later or taking a longer break during the day. But your flexibility can become frustrating for others if they don’t know when and where they can reach you.
That’s why you should always specify when you’re available, when you’re busy, or when you’re on a break. This can be as simple as adding a relevant Emoji to your Slack profile and it might be smart to establish a routine so people can count on you to be available at certain times.
2. Be considerate of timezones
Distributed teams will often have people working all over the world, which may complicate communication. For example, 11 AM in London is 3 AM in San Francisco and an obviously bad time to host a meeting between workers in each city.
But even a couple of hours’ time difference should be considered. Don’t start a meeting at 5 PM in Portugal and expect your Finnish teammates to join, as they might be in the middle of dinner. Always seek an arrangement that works for all involved parties.
3. Respect your colleagues and their availability
There are, of course, also some downsides to remote work, but we should put in the effort to minimize their impact. One example is that we have longer meetings, which are making us more tired. Remote workers should try to keep meetings to a minimum and as brief as possible to avoid taking up too much time.
Another danger of working from home is that the home office is just a few steps away, and people are checking their emails after hours. That’s why it’s good practice to avoid sending emails after hours.
Finally, don’t expect immediate responses in your communication channels, and don’t let frustration get to you if someone’s taking a while to respond. Maybe they’re on a mental health walk, perhaps they’re swamped with other urgent work. Respect for your colleagues’ time and availability is one of the more important work from home rules.
4. Communicate as clearly as possible
With remote work, a lot of communication takes place in written form. The lack of body language and not being able to read another’s emotions can easily lead to misunderstandings, e.g. a simple response might come off as passive-aggressive. Accordingly, it’s a great idea to be as straightforward as possible and avoid reading too much into what others are saying.
Also, adding to the previous rule, it’s a good idea to let people know when you can get back to them. If you get a message and cannot immediately respond, then take the moment (unless you’re doing deep work) to tell them when they can expect an answer, so that they’re not left hanging.
To add to this point, here’s something to be heeded by the managers – make sure you provide clear remote work guidelines for employees, so that they don’t have to spend company time searching for articles like this one.
5. Establish and follow boundaries (for everyone’s sake)
As mentioned, remote work has its own issues and one of them is that work often bleeds into personal time. A lot of people might be inclined to respond to some emails after hours or check in with a client during their off time.
The lack of work-life balance and boundaries can quickly lead to burnout, hurting yourself and the company. Not only that, but, for example, by constantly replying to emails at night, you’re also putting pressure on colleagues to do the same.
That’s why it’s key to clearly separate work and life – for your well-being and that of your coworkers.
6. Use the same digital tools as your colleagues
Typically, this is a given. If you work in a company, you’ll generally be granted access to the same tools as your colleagues and it will be easy to collaborate. If this isn’t the case, however, you should make a proactive effort to agree on a single set of software that you use when working together.
This way, people won’t have to constantly download new software, transform files between formats, or bicker about which tool is best. It’ll also significantly improve the team’s productivity.
7. You shouldn’t multitask during calls
This is a tough one. Particularly when the call is boring and you’ve got work to do. It used to be more difficult in a meeting room with people around you, but now that nobody’s watching over your shoulder, the urge to get some work done or scroll social media is hard to resist.
Unfortunately, doing so impacts your comprehension, may cause you to miss crucial details, and is disrespectful to the speaker. In the ideal scenario, you shouldn’t be invited to meetings where your participation isn’t necessary, so whenever you ARE invited to a meeting, you should put in the effort and contribute accordingly – even if it’s just by giving your attention.
8. Follow video call best practices
By now, you should have ample experience with video conferencing, even if you’re working full-time in-person. Still, here’s a quick checklist to keep nearby so that you don’t forget anything:
- Mute your microphone – when you’re not speaking, you should mute your microphone to avoid polluting audio with distracting noise and especially ear-piercing feedback if you have multiple people joining from the same room.
- Turn on your camera – unless agreed otherwise, it’s recommended to show your face for better communication. It’s perfectly fine to sometimes keep the video off, but try to not make a habit out of it.
- Be presentable – if the meeting demands it, take care of your appearance just like you would coming into an in-person meeting. Note: this doesn’t mean you have to wear pants.
- Tidy your background – even if your home office is an organized mess, just push some things to the side so others don’t see them in the background. Or just use the background blur tool now available on most platforms.
- Test your tech – take 2 minutes to test your mic and camera before a call to avoid unnecessary delays.
- Pause downloads to free up bandwidth – to avoid losing connection and pixelated video feeds, shut down any other resource-heavy apps and tabs. Also, consider moving closer to your router.
Video meetings don’t have to be a pain!
9. Be careful about sharing your screen
This deserves a remote work rule separate from the previous one. Whenever you have to share your screen during a call, take the time to double-check that you have no compromising content open. Things like job ads for a competitor, chats with colleagues where you gossip about other workmates, or sensitive online content can all leave an extremely negative impression and have dire disciplinary consequences down the line.
10. Be polite and respectful
Last but not least, being polite towards others is still just as important as it ever was. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re working in-person, from home, or in a hybrid capacity, but this point is particularly relevant to remote workers, because – if you’re always communicating through a screen – it’s easy to forget that there’s a real human being with real emotions on the other side.
Be punctual, be empathetic, be kind, be understanding, be courteous, and treat other people the way you want to be treated. Being polite costs you nothing, but how you treat and talk with others tells them everything about you.
Follow the remote work etiquette to create a better work environment for everyone
Remote work is here to stay. For employees, remote work offers flexibility, convenience, and better career opportunities. Employers, on the other hand, benefit from a broader talent pool, lower expenses, and a happier workforce.
If we want to keep reaping the benefits, then we need to make sure that the work environment we create is sustainable, friendly, and productive. And you can do exactly that by following the remote work etiquette and rules outlined in this article.
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