Etiquette Tip #1: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The first, second, third, and twentieth items on your list should be maintaining excellent communication with your coworkers and manager. This will help you remain on top of the small work details that often develop in the course of impromptu office collaboration sessions, which can be more difficult to keep up with when you’re remote and other employees are on location.
To prevent misunderstandings in communication and make sure your voice is being heard, adopt a “when in doubt, ask” approach. This can keep you from assuming the worst when teammates go silent for longer than normal or when a comment in an email seems to be implying something negative.
Potential issues like these reveal how important it is to be as clear as possible in your communications, as you will be functioning primarily without the non-verbal queues that set the tone of an exchange. Off-hand remarks or attempts at humor can be easily misread, making it crucial that all text communications be carefully worded. For these reasons, communication via audio or video conferencing is crucial, as it helps reduce misunderstandings and strengthen work relationships.
Etiquette Tip #2: Know Your Tech
Being confident and literate with the technology you’re required to use during the workday is especially important when working remotely. Telecommuting means you will no longer be able to ask the onsite tech guru for immediate, cube-side assistance, and you don’t want to be the person who interrupts the workflows of coworkers with basic technical questions.
As a remote employee, it’s especially critical that you feel comfortable with your video conferencing platform and equipment. Products such as Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are intuitive to use and make it possible to easily start a video chat session to connect and collaborate with coworkers. High-quality, easy-to-use hardware can help, too. A webcam with customizable settings, a high frame-rate, and automatic lighting correction software can make video conferencing easier and more enjoyable by eliminating the need to manually adjust settings.
Headsets are another tool you’ll want to get comfortable using; they can improve audio quality and cancel background noise, allowing you to share your thoughts clearly and listen to others without distractions. A wireless, Bluetooth-enabled headset offers greater freedom of movement—perfect for video conferencing from your desk at home or from a local coffee shop.
Learning the ins and outs of the tech you use on a regular basis is an important component of remote work etiquette, but working remotely doesn’t mean you will be without help if you run into an issue. Remote technical support may be limited in some ways—an IT worker won’t be able to physically manipulate your computer—but most tech issues can now be solved just as easily from a remote location as they can in-person. To help telecommuters with tech issues that can’t be fixed remotely, some companies are partnering with local repair shops or tech support providers that can come to the aid of employees working remotely.
Etiquette Tip #3: Don’t Disappear
Once you sit in your home office chair and open up your email to begin your day, you may notice something unusual. You listen, but only hear the sounds of your home. There are no longer any murmurs from down the hall, phones randomly ringing, or knocks on your cubicle. You are alone–without distractions, but also without the benefit of the social interactions with coworkers that can keep you engaged and part of your company’s culture.
One consequence of this is that making the work you’ve done visible and receiving proper recognition for it can sometimes be tricky. To overcome this issue, sit down with your supervisors to develop deliverables and metrics that align with your responsibilities so that it’s clear when goals are being met–and exceeded.
Maintaining close-knit social relationships with coworkers is also a difficult task for remote workers. Even more difficult is establishing new relationships among coworkers you are working with for the first time. Opening up to your colleagues from afar may feel uncomfortable, but it can be done easily and authentically. Carve out time during the workday to ask someone you work with how their day is going. If you are in the same physical vicinity, invite them to meet you for lunch or a cafe-based collaboration session. You’ll be surprised at just how much of a social connection can be forged from these simple acts.
During the workday, let your coworkers know when you need help and make yourself available to assist them as needed. This makes your colleagues instant accountability partners, who can alert you when you are not staying on track or are in danger of missing important deadlines. It also helps make your contributions more apparent, both to managers and members of your team.
If you find yourself far removed from your team, a video call can help you connect. The lightweight, easy-to-use video conferencing solutions of today have app-based communication options so that you can make a call from your phone or tablet as well as your computer. You might even take a virtual lunch with a colleague using video chat. These options will help you stay in touch socially with your coworkers, ultimately enhancing productivity on both ends of the line.
Improving Remote Work Etiquette Strengthens Your Position
Ultimately, the basics of remote work etiquette come down to simple thoughtfulness and thoroughness. You will need to keep the channels of communication open with coworkers and management, while staying engaged on a social level. Production metrics should be aligned with your job function, and you and your manager should be able to easily determine where you stand at all times. Utilizing all of the technical tools at your disposal and building on your understanding of those tools will also make your remote work life more productive and rewarding.
As the telecommuting trend grows, employees, managers, and company policies will become more attuned to the needs of remote workers and more adept at integrating and supporting them. In the meantime, thoughtful remote work etiquette will make this process quicker and easier–and help you remain a visible, valued member of the team.