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Beyond Digital Etiquette: 8 Hacks to Work from Anywhere

Remote work is here to stay so it is time to brush up your online manners.

Photo by Peter Olexa/ Pexels
Photo by Peter Olexa/ Pexels

The year 2020 has tossed the version of ‘normal’ for the entire globe. No matter how much we devoured late night shows, we all miss the old normal like never before. 

But as it is said, “when life gives you lemons…” In the Post-COVID era, working professionals and corporates did get unplugged due to the unpredictable pandemic which shut many shops abruptly, but soon the chord was mended when we found solace in ‘virtual meetings’. This culture made tools like Zoom and Google Meets popular, giving birth to the concept of the ‘Digital Workplace’. 

As the name suggests, a digital workplace comprises your employees’ technological working environment. It encompasses all the technologies used to get work done — both in the operational as well as the execution sector. 

As we progressed, we realised this change has opened to many more challenges than before. Some minor omissions such as turning the video on or off while talking or wondering if it is appropriate to eat while on the virtual meet, started to make a lot of difference. So, pulling their sleeves up, the etiquette professionals have identified some common issues and mistakes made by us while adhering to the digital norms of the world.  

Digital etiquette majorly comprises a sense of integrity of your actions as well as others on the internet. In short, it is just like treating people like you would in real life, now virtually. Here is a survival guide with some digital etiquettes that you should observe while logged in.  

1. A few more minutes… not anymore! 

We have always been there where conference calls are held up for “a few more minutes” while we wait for specific attendees to join. Being “on time” means setting up at least 10 minutes rather than getting things running one minute before a call starts. Creating that buffer will ensure you don’t violate anyone else’s timeline with your own ‘technical difficulties’ while also allowing you to keep others informed of your absence. 

2) Think before hitting ‘Send’

Unnecessary or company-wide emails are a load to not just our systems but our brains too. With our already cluttered desks and inboxes, there’s no quicker way to get something dismissed as “not for me” than sending a lengthy document addressed to every single employee in the company. 

Getting personal means minimising text as much as possible, however there are times when lengthy documents are necessary. So in cases like onboarding or briefing the new joinees, it is always favourable to opt for visual and interactive content like pre-recorded video introductions, and visual demonstrations. 

3) E for easy emails 

We have read and known enough on ‘how to write the perfect email’ but go blank when we get to write one. Here are two simple rules.

  • Use the VNO formula: Verb + Noun + Object. It can be “Please reply to this email and I’ll set up a quick demo at a time most convenient for you” rather than “Please let me know …” or “I can be reached at …” This way you’re driving yourself to state your request and urgent details clearly in the first paragraph. This also ensures that your message makes one request — and one request alone. 
  • And KISS: Keep It Short and Simple. 

4) Establish clear expectations 

Clear expectations mean to assign tasks individually. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re virtually present, you can shirk your commitments. If for some reason you’re unable to complete your promised tasks on time, a quick email or (even better) a call to say there will be a delay is far better than forcing your colleagues to wait indefinitely while you’re MIA. Being someone your team can count on is invaluable, especially in remote working situations. 

5) Unload to respond

The key to responding regularly is simply communicating your overload. There’s a huge difference between saying nothing and saying, “I’ll get to this later,” or “I can’t get to this now, because … but, I’ll get back to you (specific day). 

There are times when you can’t handle a request immediately, hence take a few seconds to reply and let your colleagues know. Being responsive is as important as a business ethic as it is to be gentle and polite.  

6) Tell me why

We can’t stop humming this song even if we hear a word of it distantly, but the B Boys actually unsurfaced a truth. Digital or in person, never underestimate the power of “because”. It helps people understand, empathise, and agree with you when you explain the reason behind your action. 

Interestingly, after “you” and addressing the question, “What’s in it for me?” “Because” is the second most persuasive word in the English language. Even as a leader, explaining ‘why’ reveals you’re not just an online dictator, issuing commands, and saying “No” arbitrarily. 

7) Emojis are emotions

It is often questioned, “aren’t emoji a violation of professional, business etiquette?” Not Really!  Emojis are integral in the visual communication world. They are capable of putting emotions straightforwardly and realistically when we are unable to do so face-to-face. In the case with your boss or a superior client, let them use it and establish it as an accepted norm.  Generally the safest way to go is to stick to the basics.  

8) Surf, browse, scroll 

Internet browsing on work computers is not private. Treat all of your social media usages as if your boss were staring right over your shoulder. The best internet surfing to be conducted at work is work-related. If you have the time to browse, find ways to improve yourself as an employee. Ultimately, keep your communication professional and always reflective of the company’s values and integrity. 

9) “Thank You” and “Please” 

Finally, if you think “Please” and “Thank You” are pointless additions to this list, you’d be surprised to know how easy it is to forget these little phrases when you’re communicating virtually. 

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