Etiquette in a Virtual Workplace

Virtual Workplace

A virtual workplace is convenient, but it can have drawbacks.  Technology – and a pandemic – have brought significant reliance on chat tools, texting, email, phoning, and video conferencing to conduct business. 

However, employees need to recognize management is dealing with the lack of centralization that being in a physical office offers, and companies need to make sure employees know their personal time is honored.  Greater initiative and trust is required on everyone's part. 

To help alleviate drawbacks, it is important to remember the most important etiquette rule for any workplace: to show respect for your co-workers, team members, and leadership.

Aim for Effective Communication

Various communication methods make it possible to stay in touch with clients and co-workers, meet performance expectations and deadlines, and complete reporting responsibilities without having to go to an office.

However, this also means that your communication effectiveness is being put to the test.  Meeting with clients and team members in person allows them to see, hear, and feel your presence.  But virtual communication only allows one or two of our senses to be used.  In other words, some pieces of what you are communicating may be missed or misunderstood.

To ensure that you communicate as effectively as possible:

  • Type all messages in clear, concise sentences.
  • Check spelling and grammar.
  • Develop criteria for how best to communicate certain things.  Chat or text is appropriate for some information, but email or a phone call may be best for instructional information or negotiations.
  • Listen attentively and repeat back what you believe you heard to check accuracy and understanding.

Meeting in a Virtual Workplace

Though the virtual workplace frees us from geography per se, employees, teams, and management operationally must meet from time to time.  Collaboration in the workplace requires being seen, even in a virtual environment.

Teleconferencing provides the opportunity to unmask, show our friendly faces and express ourselves “in person.”  

Consider these etiquette guidelines for teleconferencing with co-workers and management teams:

  • Be on time for all meetings.
  • Know your audience.
  • Your background looks professional and is appropriate to your audience.
  • Check the lighting and adjust your distance from the camera (not too close or far) before your meeting begins.
  • Dress as you would for work, perhaps a bit more casually, but maintain professionalism.
  • Mute quickly and often for background noise, especially if you have a potentially disruptive scene.
  • Warn people at the top of the meeting that you have a dog, a child, or a package arriving so participants aren’t surprised if you leave the screen during the meeting.  
  • Follow the rules of engagement via queue following.
  • Don’t talk over people, and if you start at the same time, bow out quickly and let the other person speak.
  • Speak clearly and engage the topics on the agenda.
  • Body language should be natural and nothing weird.
  • Make eye contact with the camera often so participants feel you are speaking directly to them.
  • Maintain a friendly tone of voice and facial expressions.

Virtual workplace guidelines vary depending on industry and local human resources policies.  Additional etiquette tips to support company guidelines may include:

  • Security compliance is observed by all team members for all forms of communication.
  • Notes or team meeting transcriptions are made available following each meeting.
  • Be sensitive to time zone differences and try to schedule meetings during normal work hours for everyone.
  • Be respectful of beginning and ending the meeting on time.  Everyone is racing to another Zoom!
  • Because email and other forms of platform communication can be received on a cell phone, be mindful of sending communication outside of business hours.

The popularity and economy of virtual workplaces and working remotely on multiple platforms will no doubt continue to be the way business is conducted in the future.  Working virtually even helps to automatically eliminate some of the time wasters we experience working in an office environment.

As technology improves the possibility of efficiency, being etiquette-ful is a daily commitment to respecting the dignity and worth of each individual with whom we work.

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