6 ‘Netiquette’ to Inculcate While Working Remotely
Yes, netiquettes, you read that right. While we have been working remotely for several months now, it’s still easy to fall victim to some major digital meeting gaffes. This is where digital etiquette or ‘netiquette’, a word that’s also found its way into the dictionary comes into play.
Digital meetings have become the way we work now, for the better part of 2020. It is how modern businesses maintain productivity and continuity. However, it’s easy to let routine and work etiquette slip when you’re working from home.
At the end of the day, you’re still at work. You’re just in a different setting. While a lot gets done, we can’t ignore that fact that it’s an entirely different ball game compared to in-person meetings. To add to that, should you be the team leader, keeping a level of courtesy and etiquette while remote working displays professionalism, commitment and sets the right example for your team.
To help you keep your meetings productive and professional, follow these 6 simple digital meeting etiquette pointers.
1. Be on time:
Time is of the essence to people, as working from home has doubled the workload on the home front too. Let’s put it this way, time was always stretched; now it is at the brink of being unmanageable at times. So never take anybody’s time for granted.
Even if it is an internal meeting, it is not okay to show up at 9:45 AM for a 9:30 AM meeting. Most of your colleagues may have scheduled back to back meetings and your being late will set them back in their schedule as well. So turn up on time. If you’re not already familiar with agenda of the call, please take some time before the meeting to make sure that you are prepared, which in turn will also help in saving time during the call.
2. Know the platform:
The start of the meeting is often delayed, especially if you have complex technology to set up and people who are new to it. There are several platforms today like Google Meet and Zoom, a lot of which is free and easy to use. Some others may have requirements to pre-download and install. Your organisation will probably have a paid subscription to these services too.
Whatever the medium, make sure that you know how to use it, for yourself and are also able to guide another person (client or team member) about how to use it should they need assistance. Depending on your device, available space on the device, security setting of your device or even your internet speed could leave you stranded or fumbling over it in the last minute. The easiest way out is to go over a short tutorial video so you are familiar with all features. Or, do a dummy call with some of your colleagues if you’re unsure, a day ahead or so.
3. Manage possible intrusions in advance:
People are easily distracted by other things such as e-mail, instant messenger, Facebook and more. Some offices even block access to all social media. However, this is not possible in a home set up. So self-regulation is necessary. Simply muting notifications can help in a big way to avoid distractions.
Sometimes you can’t hear clearly because of background noise. This can be due to using speakerphones or headphones that don’t have noise cancellation or simply because of your location. For example, I live alongside the main road and now that traffic is back in action, there is no stopping the honking of vehicles. And it’s a huge distraction during my calls. All I needed to do was to take extra precautions, especially during very important calls, meetings or discussions. Find a quiet spot at home, there is always one. Close the windows, put on the AC, turn off the fan, get hold of noise cancellation headphones; all of these have helped me reduce the background noise considerably.
Sometimes, children and pets may be around. You may not be able to avoid always, but you can keep yourself more secluded at least during very critical meetings. The idea is to think about your distractions and manage them before the video call, rather than during the call.
4. Manage your devices:
I have learned from my experience that people often think that technology will solve all the issues of virtual working. However, it could be one of the setbacks! And we should be prepared so this doesn’t happen.
Phone and laptops work very differently in term of their layout during a video call. So check what device you want to use, phone or laptop, well in advance, depending on the agenda of the call. For example, it is ok to log in to a webinar from your mobile phone assuming it involves one-way communication or one to many communication. It will be counterproductive if one logs on to a virtual team meet over the phone, especially if everyone is expected to have their video mode on and see each other for a discussion.
At times, due to device issues, one may have to log on from more than one device. While it’s ok to do that, but make sure it’s working smoothly, and the sound quality is good so you don’t have to run off in between to restart it. I’m certain you know this and would agree that there’s nothing more frustrating than hearing that echoing background noise from conflicting microphones. So when you use 2 devices, the first thing you ought to do is mute one of the devices before connecting the second one.
5. Be aware of surroundings:
Forget the client, even your coworkers won’t be able to pay attention to your ideas or take you seriously when there is a pile of clothes strewn behind you. You also want to avoid bad lighting or have some loud TV programme filtering into your call from the background. Make sure your background is work appropriate. Also, adjust your work setup so that you face a window or are exposed to plenty of light. No unmade beds in the background, and no messy rooms with open closets.
Well, that’s about individuals, on the flip side, sometimes, the cross-functional teams you may be working with may be in different time zones. Or, you have a launch coming up tomorrow and your entire team is working late into the night. Video calls may not be the go-to here. It’s one thing to stay late in the office while working and working late from home. Worst even, expecting to collaborate over a video call late evening or night. It is important to be mindful about your team members’ surroundings. There might be family members or children who might need privacy or simply a quiet environment to call it day. It’s probably better to do a conference call or work over a group chat perhaps.
6. Be presentable and mindful of your body language:
I make it a point to be on video if there is an option. Why? Because, at the end of the day, people do like to see faces. It is not always what you say, but also how you say it, your expressions, your gestures, your smile, they all add up and help you connect with others. I do agree that talking to a camera is not easy, and I strongly recommend that you practice talking to the camera. It does not change the fact that the person is not in front of you, but it does help you when you are on an actual video call.
It may be tempting to check your phone for messages, get up for a cup of quick snack, or carry on a side conversation during a dull moment in a meeting, but don’t do it! You might miss out on key information or an opportunity to give input.
If you’re on a video call, use attentive body language, sit up straight, look into the camera, be visible and pleasant, make continuous eye contact – don’t stare outside the window during the call, focus on the camera.
A study by IBM found that 54% of people would like to continue primarily working from home after the quarantine ends. As we know global companies including Twitter have already announced its employees can work from home indefinitely, while Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have said they’ll continue working remotely possibly until the end of 2021. No matter the organisation size, WFH is likely to endure. Outside of the fact that it is an easy, cost-effective way to align multiple offices, keep remote employees engaged and collaborate with multiple teams, digital meetings do come with their own sets of unspoken rules. Therefore netiquette ought to be maintained to bring sharpness to your work.
At Yellow Spark, we can help you ascertain and implement workplace best practices. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.