No one could have predicted that remote work—the subject of much controversy and debate for years—would instantly become the prevailing work format around the world. And since remote work is still relatively new for many people, some are still struggling. So, to help you get back on track in this new environment if you’re still trying to find your footing, below are the four golden rules of remote work etiquette. Keep to these and you’ll see your productivity and efficiency skyrocket.
1. Clearly define your working hours
If you haven’t already, you need to clearly define your working hours. The fact that you work remotely doesn’t mean that you can wreak havoc with when you work. Even though you work remotely, you still work in a team, interact with colleagues, and have to keep up with your team’s workload, tasks, and messages. And the simple rule of staying on a proper schedule and maintaining a routine to keep up with everything is often underestimated and neglected.
If you start working at 9 in the morning, have lunch at the same time each day, and finish work at 6 in the evening, then your team members will know what to expect from you. And you should have the same knowledge regarding their time. That way, you won’t have to wait for an answer to an email or Slack when a colleague is offline, at lunch, or done with work for the day.
2. Become proficient in video call procedures
Today, with video calls taking the place of in-person meetings, it’s essential to know the ins and outs of video call procedures. First, you’ll want to prepare for video calls well in advance. Start to prepare early, freshen yourself up, and dress how you’d usually dress for the office. Then make sure your audio and video equipment is working properly and your camera is at eye level. There should be no unmade bed, scattered clothes, or dirty dishes in the background. It’s best to have a wall, cabinet, or bookshelf as your background—in other words, something neutral and not distracting the attention of the interlocutor. Also, pay attention to the lighting. If you sit in the dark or the light source is right behind your back, no one will see you, and all preliminary preparations will be wasted.
It should go without saying, but never take video calls while walking or driving. Walking invariably causes shortness of breath, so in addition to the shaking camera, your interlocutor will listen to your rapid breathing—completely unacceptable. As for making a call while driving, it’s not only impolite but also dangerous. If an important call caught you on the road, stop the car, talk, and then continue on the road.
Finally, don’t take calls in noisy public (or private) places. Your interlocutors will be forced to hear the sounds of clanging dishes, engines of passing cars, chit-chat of patrons or roommates. And you’ll be forced to shout over all the noise—not a good way to conduct a meeting.
3. Don’t engage in side activities during working hours
Working remotely can tempt some people to visit their social media accounts, read the news, and watch videos during working hours. It’s easy for some people to justify themselves by saying these indulgences are merely momentary breaks. However, this is a trap.
News feeds can entangle you from head to toe and easily eat up valuable work time. Videos flow smoothly into the next videos. And monitoring social networks can translate into corresponding with friends, which can drag on for an indefinite time—during which your colleagues might be waiting for your answer or your verdict on a current task. Therefore, make this a rule: no side activities during working hours. They’re insidious and dangerous, and their power over your mind is too easy to underestimate.
Friends can wait, the news won’t run away, and videos can be watched after work ends for the day. If you stick to this rule, it will not only show your respect for your colleagues’ time but will also help you optimize your own working time and significantly increase your efficiency.
4. Negotiate time and space with your at-home “coworkers”
Perhaps you’re familiar with one or more of the following situations: While you’re talking to your manager on the phone, your roommate asks you loudly where you put the large pot. While you’re on a Zoom call, your son continually runs through the background. Since you just have nowhere else to go, you’re taking a work call in the kitchen when your significant other begins carving meat, whistling cheerfully—and loudly.
In other words, when you’re working remotely, you’re often not alone. You have to share space with relatives, children, animals, and next-door neighbors repairing their homes. And sometimes, these distractions can be annoying, causing your efficiency to drop and your attention to be distracted. If this is the case, make sure to set guidelines with those you share space with.
“It’s easier said than done, but you have to try to agree with your family about your work schedule,” says the head of HR at Adsy. “Designate a specific place to work, where no one will distract you, and agree that during calls your relatives don’t start loud activities and don’t call you. This will take a certain amount of time—be prepared for this and, if necessary, return to the discussion of the need to comply with work boundaries at a specific time. Just stay calm and never take out your frustration on your family.”
Marie Barnes is a contributing writer and a reviewer for GearYoda. She is an enthusiastic blogger interested in writing about technology, social media, work, travel, lifestyle, and current affairs. Follow her on Medium.