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remote etiquette post

A huge majority of businesses around the world have experienced some dramatic and not entirely voluntary digital transformation in a much shorter period than they would have anticipated. It has taken a world-changing crisis to fundamentally shift the way businesses operate, a shift which will cripple some but see others emerge far stronger. Amongst all this turmoil, many companies have adopted a fully functioning remote work culture. Tools like Slack, Zoom, Trello and Monday are now used on a daily basis and are providing many with the digital help we needed all along to take business operations to new and more efficient levels.

But with this digital transformation and the rapid adoption of new tech tools and communication methods, comes a host of new issues and workplace challenges that need to be managed. This calls for an update of the rules,  so based on our experiences at SmartWage, we have identified a set of remote etiquette guidelines that work for us, to help you and your teammates make the very best of the ‘new normal’.

1. Use and follow your virtual calendar

Firstly, if you don’t have a digital calendar set up for your organisation, get that sorted. 

Using Google Calendar as an example (our tool of choice), you can schedule all your meetings here. Even if you have individual commitments in your diary, it’s good practice to allocate slots on your calendar to let your team  know that you don’t want to be disturbed, or aren’t available. 

When scheduling meetings with your teammates, make sure you can see their calendar too in order to prevent double bookings or unnecessary back-and-forths. You can do so by subscribing to their calendar.

Check your calendar regularly! Certainly, check it on a daily basis but if you know you are a busy person with lots of engagements, you should probably check your calendar hourly to ensure you don’t miss anything or make someone wait on the other end of a Zoom call, admiring their reflection.

2. Use your digital voice

Just because you can’t speak to your colleagues in person, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak at all. Establish an efficient communication platform to use (preferably not email but it may have to do) and use it. Try to use it in the same way you would normally communicate in the office. By creating a free-flowing communication channel, you encourage more transparency, increased creativity and an “office-like” vibe. 

3. Video calls (this is a big one)

Now that video calls (“VC’s” as the techies like to call them) are a normal part of our day, an urgent need has developed for some rules to be established. The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic served up some absolutely horrifying VC bloopers, including full frontal nudity in a company meeting and sharing a trip to the toilet with other members of an important call. 

A few tips to help the tech novices and VC newcomers are as follows:

  • Turn on your camera
    • You don’t arrive at important meetings wearing a mask, so show your face at the start of a video call. You can turn it off later if the connection isn’t great!
  • Dress appropriately
    • This doesn’t mean you have to wear a collared shirt every day but if you are having an important meeting with some important people, it makes sense to not be wearing your dressing gown.
  • Mute your mic when not speaking (and switch it on as necessary)
    • Especially if the VC is crowded, it’s good practice to turn your mic off so that no background noise gets picked up and disrupts the meeting 

4. Allocate time for productive work and big tasks

A key drawback of remote culture is that, despite being far apart, the tools we use to connect make us more accessible than ever, creating a constant stream of pings, emails, Slack messages and, “please take a quick look at this for me.” This can quickly become overwhelming and counterproductive unless the team implements rules and processes to allow serious and constructive work to get done. There are many ways this can be achieved, but here are two examples we love:

  • Quiet Zones are time buckets allocated each day where members of the team are encouraged to close their Slack and emails, turn off their notifications and focus all their attention on getting the really important work and big tasks done. We’ve found this to be a hugely valuable exercise!
  • Office Hours are a variation of Quiet Zones and a great practice we picked up from It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, leaders of the company Basecamp and pioneers of remote working culture. With Office Hours, individuals have set times, known to the rest of the team, when they make themselves available for questions, queries and follow-ups, so that the rest of their time can be left undisturbed to get some truly valuable work done!

These are just a few tips and tricks that we’ve picked up as we’ve grown, no doubt there are many more and we’d love to hear them from you, please let us know what you have done to adapt to the new ways of work. 

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