Being able to work from home is exciting. No more sitting in traffic, your lunch will always be in the fridge, and the distracting humming from two cubes down will finally cease. You have built a distraction-free zone in your home, including motivational photos of your last vacation and even a cozy resting spot for your furry best friend. You may feel prepared to tackle the day-to-day challenges of telecommuting, but are you truly ready for what remote work means?
While working remotely can make it easier to balance your work and personal life, there are some considerations that are unique to the home office scenario. Since almost every work role–even remotely located ones–is team-oriented or involves at least some collaboration, you’ll need to follow proper remote work etiquette to ensure that your contributions are understood and appreciated.
Remote Work 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 or supervisor. This will help you remain on top of the small work details that often develop in the course of impromptu office collaboration sessions, and which can be more difficult to keep up with when you’re remote and other employees are on location.
To prevent misunderstandings 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.
Face-to-face time reduces misunderstandings and strengthens work relationships.
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.
This is a great reason to introduce video conferencing and team collaboration software into the mix. Products such as Microsoft Teams and Slack make it possible to easily start a video chat session with coworkers to share ideas, connect on a face-to-face level, and collaborate through document and screen sharing. Face-to-face time reduces misunderstandings and strengthens work relationships.
Etiquette Tip #2: Maintain Production Transparency
If you’re a remote worker, making the work you’ve done visible and receiving proper recognition for it can sometimes be tricky. To overcome this issue, sit down with managers or supervisors to develop deliverables and metrics that align to your responsibilities, so that it’s clear when goals are being met–and exceeded.
The next step is to keep coworkers abreast of your workload, let them know when you need help, and make yourself available to assist them as needed. This gives you instant accountability partners in your coworkers, 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 colleagues.
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.
If you find yourself far removed from your team, a video call can also help you connect.
Maintaining close-knit social relationships with coworkers is 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 even a cafe-based collaboration session. You’ll be surprised at just how much of a social connection can be forged from these simple acts. Stay sincere, be yourself, and ask them the questions you would like to be asked yourself.
If you find yourself far removed from your team, a video call can also 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.
Etiquette Tip #4: 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.
Many tech issues can now be solved just as easily from a remote location as they can in-person.
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 many tech issues can now be solved just as easily from a remote location as they can in-person.
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.
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