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  1. Blog
  2. Culture & Professionalism
  3. October 5, 2020

The New Office Etiquette: 6 Things to Know in Virtual & In-Person Offices

How to navigate the new lack of normal

Two people on a Zoom call
Image courtesy of Visuals

Office etiquette has taken a whole new meaning. With 64 percent of U.S. employees working from home and plenty still reporting to physical offices, some aspects of office etiquette have changed significantly. 

To guide you in navigating the new office etiquette, InHerSight is diving into some key pointers on office etiquette that go a bit deeper than dressing appropriately or being on time for meetings. 

Virtual office etiquette

You and your coworkers may find yourselves juggling remote work and family life, all while trying to stay healthy and remain connected to family and friends (from a distance). With so much going on, this is the most important time to practice good office etiquette, even if your office is virtual. 

1. Don’t comment on your coworkers’ workspaces

Many working women are attending meetings virtually, which means you get to see your coworkers’ personal spaces more than ever before. Resist the urge to comment on them. Taking meetings from home is convenient for many, but it may also evoke feelings of vulnerability. Try not to bring up your coworkers’ virtual office decor, how big or small their office looks, or whether it’s untidy. Keep in mind that you are viewing someone’s personal space and it’s not appropriate to pass judgement on it—good or bad.

2. Streamline your communication

Wait! Before you text your coworker or supervisor about a work-related matter, think back to your time at the traditional office. Did you text them or did you send an email? Perhaps you sent a message through Slack, Basecamp, or Microsoft Teams. Provided that you still have access to the mode of communication from your office days, use that. And if you don’t have access to that anymore, ask what mode of communication they prefer you use. 

3. Respect your coworkers’ personal time

Making the switch from a traditional office to a virtual one has made it challenging to separate work and home life. When you consistently show respect for your coworkers’ personal time, you help make that transition a bit easier. You can do this by encouraging breaks. For example, if your coworker says they can skip their lunch break to help you with something, tell them that you’re happy to connect with them after they’ve had their break. Additionally, refrain from asking questions about how your coworkers are using their personal days, vacations, or half-days—let them bring it up.

Avoid asking them to work more hours than they are able to. And, if possible, send work emails during work hours only. And if you do find yourself working at odd hours, consider using your email server’s schedule send feature and schedule the email to arrive in their inbox during normal office hours.

Read more: 14 Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Stressful Times

4. Don’t assume your coworkers love (or loathe) working from home

Just because you like (or dislike) something, doesn’t mean someone else does too. Even if you find working from home to be super convenient, don't assume your coworkers feel the same way. 

Examples of commentary that are helpful include: 

I don’t know why she chooses to go into the office. Working remotely is so much better.

How can you like virtual work? It’s so boring.

No one should be late to a virtual meeting—you’re already at home!

Each of your coworkers has a unique set of needs, preferences, and circumstances that have made the virtual office either more or less convenient. Keep an open mind and try to create positive work relationships, regardless of where your colleagues are working. 

In-person office etiquette

Even though more than five million U.S. workers are working remotely, plenty of workers still report to the office., so it’s important to maintain good in-person office etiquette. 

1. Don’t judge your coworkers for modifying their schedules

Although your coworkers may be working in the office, they still have a complex set of obligations at home. As a result, they may need to come in late, leave early, or work half a day in the office. 

They might also need to work a hybrid schedule—some days or hours in the office, some days or hours remotely. The reality is that most U.S. workers may be working non-standard hours to take care of both work and home obligations. Instead of asking why they insist on working odd hours, remember that there is no “normal” right now, and assume they’re doing the best they can. 

2. Trade small talk for meaningful, helpful commentary

While mindlessly chatting with your coworkers about the weekend or a new show on TV can be a welcome reprieve right now, consider providing positive, useful feedback, or sharing a positive thought with them. 

Examples of commentary that could be helpful include:

How can I support you?

Is there anything you’d like to share with me? 

I noticed that the project you were leading came out really well. I  just wanted to let you know I think you did great on that!

3. Respect your coworkers’ space (and boundaries) 

Respecting other people’s physical space was something that should have been happening before so many of us moved to a virtual office, but it’s even more important now. Unless someone invites you into their personal space, keep a safe distance. 

It’s also wise to respect people’s boundaries. Refrain from asking questions about their home life, thoughts on current events, or other aspects of their personal life that they have not volunteered. There are plenty of ways to be friendly, professional, and engaging without invading someone’s space or disregarding their boundaries. 

Read more: You Need More Rest. Here Are 3 Ways to Calm Down & Disconnect

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Kaila Kea-Lewis

Contributor

Kaila Kea-Lewis is a career coach and freelance writer, mainly covering career changes, job searching, and self-development. As a long-time advocate for remote work, she also enjoys writing about remaining productive while working from home. Her bylines include InHerSight, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, and ZipRecruiter.

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