The pandemic has made work from home (WFH) our predominant mode of working. Before COVID-19, it was estimated that just 1.7 million UK professionals worked from home. Today, this number has shot up to over 20 million. In the US as well, only 7% had the option of working from home in a pre-pandemic world.
The picture looks very different now.
We have seen multiple office closures in a bid to encourage social distancing, minimizing the need for travel, commutes, and physical interactions as much as possible. Consequently, the age-old norms and unwritten laws that we were accustomed to in an office premise, no longer apply.
If you turned up 10 minutes late to the office, you would be greeted with a frown. How does this translate in a WFH setup?
In an office, it is fine to walk over to your next cubicle and ask a colleague for help/inputs. But can you interrupt a colleague’s WFH day in a similar fashion?
To demystify this, we need to brush up on work from home etiquette – a highly contextualized set of behavioral guidelines that should define how we work every day. Particularly, employees must be aware of WFH etiquette when ensuring their “office” availability, taking video calls, and communicating with customers and colleagues digitally.
Availability is a major issue when working from home. In fact, it was among the most common concerns that stopped companies from adopting WFH before the pandemic. Without an in-person presence, it can be difficult to know when someone is available, if a colleague has punched out for the day, or if one has stepped out to run an errand.
A big part of WFH etiquette is clocking-in and clocking-out at roughly the same time each day, instituting a sense of routine. When you are stepping out, it is advisable to drop a text on group chat or let your manager know, so that everyone can operate around it. As much as possible, these breaks should be kept to a bare minimum – we wouldn’t run multiple errands in the middle of a traditional workday, would we?
Your colleagues don’t get to meet on a regular basis anymore. This makes it essential to use video conferencing meaningfully. One should keep the video on (if there is adequate Wi-Fi) instead of relying only on voice. Preparing in advance for video conferences is also helpful – this could be as simple as changing out of your pajamas before getting on a call, or removing a pet from the room to minimize disruptions.
Proper etiquette when communicating digitally makes everyone’s lives easier. Make sure to add a clear subject line to your emails (which are growing in volume as we WFH), making them easily searchable. Drop a text 15 minutes before calling someone, and use commonly accessible platforms (Slack, Hangouts, etc.) as much as possible.
WFH etiquette is essential to establish clear lines of communication and mutual respect in this new world of work. These are simple moves but can play a massive role in strengthening your relationship with your peers.