With a large portion of people working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules of workplace etiquette have changed. Rather than a formal office, you may be set up at your dining room table with one or more pets in your lap and children running wild through your home.
This more relaxed atmosphere can open up more relaxed office etiquette. However, that isn't always the best plan to embrace, especially now that employers are cutting back and evaluating workers more than ever.
As tempting as it may be to throw traditional office etiquette out the window, it won't help guarantee your job during this highly volatile time. Rather, consider swapping that traditional office etiquette with a new, more modern work-from-home (WFH) etiquette.
The number one mistake people are making with WFH is not being accessible. Let people know how to reach you by providing your cell number, email, alternative email, etc. But beyond just providing ways to contact you, actually respond to people's inquiries. Being unreachable may make you feel less stressed and more focused, but it becomes frustrating for your colleagues.
Be proactive on checking in with people. If you are on a project with someone, send a quick email at the beginning of each week to update your progress and detail what you plan to accomplish in the week to come. If there are issues, schedule a conference call. Never just assume other people on the project are handling everything.
Speaking of conference calls, there is a lot of new etiquette that comes with this necessary territory. For example, if you are on a conference call with more than three people, always mute your phone unless you are speaking. This cuts down on background noise, making what the speaker is saying more intelligible. Note that because most people will follow this "mute when not speaking rule," it's important to wait a few extra seconds for people to unmute after you have asked a question. This can result in what seems like awkwardly long silences, but that is simply part of the new conference call etiquette.
Some people prefer a video conference via WebEx or Zoom. The most important etiquette to follow here is that you need to come across as professional. This means you should follow normal hygiene and grooming routines, wear somewhat professional clothing, and ensure your background isn't revealing something inappropriate. You may have accepted a messy house at this point, but that doesn't mean you should put that on display during a video call.
When it comes to WFH etiquette with your boss, try to keep things as professional as possible. Blurring the lines of home, work, boss, and friend is not a good idea. This is quite a challenge given you are at home, but you must learn to compartmentalize in the way that you did when you were physically in the office.
Your boss is looking to see if you can accomplish this separation of work life and home life. They are also looking to see whether you can adapt to change, adopt new technology, and maintain productivity. Their biggest concern is that they can't physically see if everyone is working, so whatever you can do to assuage their fears that you may be doing laundry and a DIY home project instead of the work they need you to be doing, is going to be valuable.
As employers evaluate employees and determine who stays and who gets cut, your WFH etiquette and communication skills will be your first line of defense. Always be proactive and responsive when it comes to working from home.