by Victoria Chynoweth
In recent years, the landscape of work has undergone a significant transformation, with remote work becoming more prevalent than ever. It’s estimated that 12.7% of US workers now work fully remote, with nearly 30% working as part of a hybrid work model. As professionals adapt to this new norm, it’s crucial to understand and implement remote work etiquette to foster a professional virtual presence. Building a strong professional image in the digital realm requires a lot more than just timely emails and attending virtual meetings.
Here, we lay out the ways in which virtual professionals and leaders can thrive in remote workplaces by adhering to clear communication, setting boundaries, and pursuing cultural harmony.
Establishing Clear Communication Channels
One of the cornerstones of remote work etiquette is effective communication. In a virtual setting, where face-to-face interactions are limited, the need for clear and concise communication is heightened. Establishing preferred communication channels for different types of messages can help in streamlining conversations. Email may still be somewhat suitable for formal communication, while instant messaging platforms such as Slack have shown superiority when it comes to quick queries. Project management tools such as Asana, Monday, and Notion have also proved effective in terms of efficiency for many remotely-based companies.
Of course, it quickly becomes apparent that adopting the right tools is just the beginning. Aileen Izquierdo, interim chair of the FIU Department of Communication, underscores this by emphasizing the crucial role that concise and empathetic communication plays in unlocking the full potential of remote work environments.
“One of the key things to consider is what would you want to hear if you were on the other side of the communication model. Putting myself in the audience’s shoes allows for more effective and empathic communication. It may feel like sending a mass email would do the trick, but even though it takes more to craft individualized messages, they are more effective,” she stated.
However, it could also be argued that an over-reliance on written communication may erode the personal connections that build camaraderie within a team. Video calls and virtual meetings, though more time-consuming, allow for nuanced communication, including tone and body language, that written messages often lack. It’s important to explore all avenues when trying to build a professional virtual presence.
Navigating Time Zones and Flexibility
Remote work often means working with colleagues or clients in different time zones, requiring a delicate balance between flexibility and structure. Understanding and respecting the time zones of team members is a fundamental aspect of remote work etiquette. It involves scheduling meetings at reasonable hours for all parties involved and being mindful of deadlines that might be affected by time differences. Flexibility is key, but it should be complemented by a commitment to meeting collective goals.
In the virtual workplace, flexibility is not just about working hours; it’s about adapting to different working styles and accommodating diverse schedules. A successful remote professional is one who can seamlessly navigate these variations while maintaining productivity. Many remote workers feel like they have already found the correct balance in this regard, with an estimated 77% of professional workers believing they are more productive working remotely according to FlexJobs.com.
That being said, while flexibility is important when it comes to remote work etiquette, there’s a fine line between accommodating diverse schedules and creating a chaotic work environment. Establishing a high degree of structure is vital to ensuring that remote teams stay aligned and focused on shared objectives.
Striking Balance: Remote Work and The Pursuit of Harmony
The allure of remote work lies not only in its flexibility but also in the potential for a better work-life balance. However, achieving this balance requires intentional effort. Remote professionals often find themselves working longer hours, blurring the boundaries between professional and personal life. Understanding the significance of setting clear boundaries is crucial for building a sustainable and healthy virtual presence according to Nicole Magelssen, Founder and CEO of Alpine Virtual Assistants.
“One of the secrets to a successful work-life balance is setting clear boundaries. Creating a physical and temporal separation between work and personal life allows you to enhance focus during working hours and fully detach during leisure time,” she said.
Magelssen also believes having a space at home solely dedicated to work and nothing else is paramount to building a successful virtual presence, saying, “Rather than working all over the house with your laptop on tote, a working area can help create that visual that you only work when you are there.”
While the autonomy to manage one’s own schedule is a perk of remote work, it can lead to burnout if not approached mindfully. It’s essential for individuals to establish designated work hours, communicate these to their team, and resist the temptation to overextend into personal time. This practice not only preserves individual well-being but also contributes to a more effective and focused work period.
Indeed, the managers and remote business owners do hold some responsibility to create structure in their workplace, including limiting the number of hours per day a team member can work.
On the other hand, some critics argue that the traditional 9-to-5 model might not be the most suitable approach for remote work. Some professionals thrive in non-traditional schedules, finding increased productivity during unconventional hours. Striking a balance involves recognizing and respecting individual preferences while still adhering to broader team objectives.
Michael Montano, Head of Engineering at Twitter echoed this statement in a recent Harvard Business Review, stating, “We’re definitely seeing this kind of demand from our employees and an expectation for greater flexibility and choice in how they work, where they work and when they work.”
Building a professional virtual presence is about finding harmony amidst the challenges and opportunities presented by remote work. Whether through concise written messages or engaging video calls, understanding the nuances of communication, respecting time differences, and fostering a healthy work-life balance contribute to a thriving virtual professional environment. In navigating this space, the crucial strategy is to embrace change while upholding the essence of effective, empathetic, and collaborative professional interactions.
Victoria Chynoweth is a renowned journalist and opera singer recognized for her insightful contributions to various high-profile publications. Her expertise extends across a wide range of topics — from technology to global business trends — and she has graced stages and forums around the world, speaking at events for ambassadors, lords, and dignitaries in esteemed venues like the UK House of Commons, Guildhall in London, and the Vatican. To keep up with her latest work, follow her on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriachynoweth.