Today for many of us, remote work is daily life. After the pandemic began, many companies were forced to change their habits and start developing the remote way of work among employees. Apart from all its advantages, working from home also makes us follow a few essential rules that help maintain business relations at the highest level.
Check out our short home office savoir vivre guide, and learn 13 remote work rules to help you do your best with your tasks and projects - no matter where you perform them.
Table of contents:
- Clothes (don't) make the man
- Remote workers are (still) clients and colleagues
- Create a productive remote work environment
- Remote problem solving - a tough nut to crack
- Working remotely - follow the rules
Clothes (don't) make the man
Even if the proverb says: "Don't judge a book by its cover," there's only one chance to make the first impression. It also applies to employees who work from home and who arrange online meetings with business partners and colleagues.
Do you remember the memes with students taking part in online lectures, wearing white shirts combined with pajama trousers? We do, and that's precisely what we have in mind. If you are going to join an official video call, prepare your outfit in advance. Think how you'd dress up if you were going to the office, and do the same. Remember that your interlocutors deserve respect regardless of the form of your meeting.
- A stained T-shirt is out of the question.
- Pajamas or a bathrobe won't be a good choice either.
- Hair should be combed, so if you plan to wash it - schedule it in advance instead of welcoming your talkers with a towel on your head.
These are just a few simple tips that will help you take care of your business relations even if you work from home.
Remote workers are (still) clients and colleagues
Meetings conducted from home don't absolve you from following remote work rules. Most remote jobs still require the entire team's engagement, so communication matters. To ensure all the details will be discussed, communicate all expectations and needs effectively. Setting clear expectations helps to create a stable work environment, as well as makes it easier to stay focused on the principal tasks and save time.
Remote work etiquette includes using honorifics and polite expressions both in emails and during conversations. Remote employees often treat basic online communicators as their primary tool for cooperation, but even there, using netiquette should be compulsory.
- Start your chat with "Hello" or a simple "Hi" - it will break the ice and create a friendly atmosphere.
- Finish the conversation with some signs of respect (this will also let your interlocutor know you have resolved the issue you contacted them about).
- In the message content, check the punctuation marks and use full sentences to help the readers understand your point of view.
Inform others if you are going to be late
Being late is one of the least elegant behaviors at work and in private life. Remote workers fail to remember about it often, treating online calls less seriously than traditional meetings. Remote work etiquette requires planning your day in a way that helps you take part in all the scheduled meetings without the risk of lateness. While accepting or rejecting calls, look at your calendar to be sure you'll have enough time to make it to the next meetings.
Even a 5-10 minute break is enough to take a tea or coffee, stretch a bit, or take a deep breath. That's why you should opt for these a-few-minute breaks rather than just leaving a few seconds between calls. A good option will be to plan your meeting for 25 instead of 30, and 50 rather than 60 minutes. Some online calendars already make it possible.
Try to avoid absences at short notice
Some unpredicted circumstances can happen to anyone, but it's essential to do our best to avoid absences at the already-planned meetings. Successful remote work is primarily based on online calls that substitute onsite meetings.
Keep treating your interlocutors as respectfully as when you were meeting at the company's headquarters, and that includes planning your daily routine, including all the previously scheduled meetings. If you know that you can't be present at any of them, inform others about it as soon as possible so that the organizers can either postpone the call or adjust the meeting agenda if necessary.
Create a productive remote work environment
While planning your daily work, make some time for a better work-life balance. Every social interaction requires energy, so saving it and "recharging batteries" whenever possible is essential. If you have a day full of tasks ahead, do your best to avoid distractions and build your own business zone. Adapting your house to your current needs is beneficial, so why not create some space (no matter how small) entirely dedicated to your business life? Choose a room that will become your office or at least devote a fragment of one of your rooms for your work. This will help you stay focused on your tasks but also disconnect when your work for the day is done.
Attend a meeting from home
It’s difficult to imagine a less professional attitude than conducting a meeting with background noise. When planning a call, don’t do it in a restaurant, on the train, or on other public transport. Find a place where you’ll be isolated from other people and sounds.
Use a camera and microphone while calling
Nowadays, technology offers us plenty of video conferencing tools supporting us in creating business meetings. But to make communication as beneficial as possible, remember to follow a few fundamental rules:
- During the videoconference, turn the camera on. Face-to-face talk is much more convincing than a simple phone call.
- Check for any technical difficulties with your equipment before the meeting starts. Use video and microphone tests to see if everything works fine.
- Avoid participating in meetings when you're on the go. There's nothing less effective than a video call made on the train or in the middle of nowhere with a weak Internet connection.
- Respect the different time zones your partners work in and their habits. From time to time, it may mean prolonging your working hours or starting the day a bit earlier than usual, but trust me - this slight inconvenience will pay off soon.
Sometimes it's better to postpone the call and respond using email. Communication problems and a lack of proper working conditions may damage your company's image by making it unprofessional, and it's not worth taking this risk.
Keep eye contact with your interlocutor
Eye contact matters on video calls as much as during traditional face-to-face discussions. Treat the time of the call as professionally as possible and avoid any distractions. Don’t read emails or respond to messages; keep focused on the people you’re talking with. This way, you’ll let them know you respect them and their time.
Mute the microphone when you are not speaking
One more tip regarding video calls: it’s good to mute the microphone when you’re not speaking. That way, you won’t disturb your partners, and you’ll avoid any unwanted background sounds.
Remember about a stable Internet connection
In the home office era, a stable Internet connection is crucial. Remember about it while planning your workplace, so the picture on your camera won’t freeze, and the voice will be clear.
Clear the space within the camera range
Remember: your home stops being your private environment when the video call starts. Whatever can be visible in the eye of the camera automatically becomes part of the (home) office. Spend some time cleaning the surrounding space, and eliminate all the unnecessary items that wouldn't fit your office space. Or, even better, simply use a professional background – more on that below.
Or use professional background
Most video call tools offer plenty of options regarding digital backgrounds. Using them makes your life easier because the background covers whatever you have behind you during the call. While preparing for the meeting, take some time to choose a professional background that will help present yourself as professionally as possible. You can use a background suggested by the communicator you use or one designed by the company you represent.
Note: Avoid choosing animated or very colorful backgrounds because the effect will be opposite to the intended – they are not very professional. Keep the fun options for fun meetings.
Remote problem solving - a tough nut to crack
Avoiding misunderstandings is just as difficult remotely as in the office, or possibly – even more challenging. Due to the distance between the interlocutors, communication can be more demanding (you write more than talk, a weak Internet connection may distort the voice, no facial expression can be seen during the call, etc.), and productivity can decline. Therefore, developing conflict resolution methods is essential to planning your work from home.
When a misunderstanding occurs, feel free to suggest a quick call to clear all the details. Even the shortest talk can give both sides much more than exchanging emails. Besides, this tip will help you keep all the critical information in order; After each meeting, send a brief email with a summary featuring the key information from the call:
- What has been discussed?
- What have you decided?
- What are the following steps of the described process?
- Who is responsible for each of the steps?
This message will keep everyone on the same page, and you only need a few minutes to write it - it's worth it!
Working remotely - follow the rules
Nowadays, remote employees often struggle with obstacles that wouldn't have come to their minds just a few years ago. Working remotely has changed their everyday life for good, giving them both new situations to find themselves but also more freedom to plan their tasks.
Keeping a work-life balance started to be more challenging than ever before. When the pandemic began, there were a lot of funny videos showing people forced to change their daily routines and start working from home. Do you remember the one with a journalist conducting a live broadcast from his apartment? Suddenly, his children entered the office, destroying the official character of the program in the blink of an eye. The success of this broadcast depended on the journalist's cold blood, the tolerance of his coworkers and audience. And these are precisely the critical elements of work - wherever you do it.
Flexibility, openness to your interlocutors' needs, professionalism, and understanding will help you work remotely as effectively as possible. Along with adherence to remote work etiquette, your company has a great chance to succeed.