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Virtual Office Etiquette

When working virtually, it can be confusing as to appropriate office etiquette. Here are few guidelines at Virtual Assist USA. 

Virtual Office Etiquette

  • Restrooms/Snack/Water/Coffee

    We treat this just like you would if you were in office. If you need to use the restroom, grab a snack, or a drink, you would simply get up and go. There is no need to ask permission for this or to let someone know. This is only a few moments in the day. You would leave your clock running with whatever you are working on and just come back to it once you finished what you were doing.

  • Unpaid Breaks

    Unpaid breaks such as: fixing meals, letting pets out, checking in on family, running errands, appointments, etc. This type of item would involve you clocking out and mentioning to your supervisor that you are stepping away from your computer for a bit to handle something. This could take longer the above stated which is why we clock out for it. Once you are done and return to your computer, start your timer again and let your supervisor know you are back at your computer.

  • Meal Breaks

    All employees are entitled to a 15-min paid break for every 4 consecutive hours they work. To be billed under internal time in the team folder.
    If an employee is working an 8-hour consecutive day, the employee is entitled to 30 min paid break, with up to an hour break, with the remaining 30 minutes to be unpaid. The employee is not required to take the full hour break, however, must not work during their paid time. Any breaks that fall outside these means are considered time off and must be submitted for approval. Labor posters can be found in our Teamwork Platform.

  • Team Meetings

    Team meetings are held on a monthly basis and are mandatory for all employees. This does not mean that if you have an important client call that you should skip the client call. Client work also trumps internal work. Just let your manager know you will be missing the team meeting. 

    During team meetings, please keep your mic muted until you have a question or are contributing to the discussion. Videos are mandatory for all team meetings. Exceptions are approved by the executive team. 

    Team meetings are billed internally. 

Time Logs

While you are clocked out either running an errand, taking care of an extended break etc, please be sure that those start and end times match with the time that your messages to your supervisor do. For example

 

If you message your manager at 10:30a stating you are clocking out for a break or errand, then your end time for whatever task/client you were working on, should end at 1030a in teamwork. If you come back at 1pm and send a message to your manager that you are back at your computer at 1pm, then your start time for the client you are working on should start at 1pm. 

 

This goes the same for when you check in with your manager first thing in the morning. When you state you are "here" it is expected that your first client start time will be the same time you told your manager you were here. If you state "here" and no work is logged, it brings into question what was handled during that time. 

Client and Internal Call Etiquette

We understand that while you are working on one client, another client may call, text or email you. If you chose to answer the other client, you need to remember to end your time with the previous client you are working on and start your timer for the client that reached out to you. 

Pick the Appropriate Method of Communication

Determining an effective way to professionally communicate isn’t simple due simply to the sheer amount of options. However, choosing the most appropriate communication method to relay your message should remain a top concern.

Never Forget You Are a Working Professional

 

One of the perks of having a virtual office is that unless you are in a co-working space or a coffee shop, you are usually the only one in the room. Hence, pajamas and casual wear tends to be the daily wardrobe of choice for remote workers. But sometimes, dressing the part of a working professional is necessary.

An example is participating in video conference calls with your peers or prospective clients. Since first impressions and professionalism are always important, demonstrate virtual office etiquette by making sure you look presentable and alert during video calls. Also, stay mindful of your body language and facial expressions. If you have an early morning video meeting, ensure you are fully awake before appearing on camera.

  • The Microphone Mute

    Background noise is perhaps the most distracting aspect of a Zoom call. Obviously, the neighbor mowing the lawn or the kids screaming in the background are causes for concern. So if possible, mute your microphone until you’re ready or asked to speak to limit distractions from the meeting or conversation.

    DONT BE LATE

    ALWAYS BE PREPARED TO VIDEO

  • Position Your Camera

    Before you hop on a Zoom call, position your camera properly. Nothing’s more distracting than a camera aimed at someone’s forehead, lap, or something else in the room. In addition, many people choose to use Zoom’s endless amount of free and paid backgrounds to add a bit of humor or professionalism to the video chat. Just don’t go overboard. Temporary changes to your background in a light-hearted manner are alright in the correct atmosphere. But make sure to gauge the conversation before throwing on a random background. VA USA offers its own, if you do not have one, please ask and we will provide it to you.

  • Don’t Multitask

    Be present on calls. If you get distracted with taking notes, ask to record a call. In the same vein as other distracting actions is multitasking. The reason this is bothersome is to look at it from others’ points of view. If you’re shuffling papers, busting out a calculator, or doing some sort of housework while you’re in a meeting, your actions come off as apathetic. So try to get other activities done before the meeting or hold off until afterward.

  • Be Mindful of Time Zones

    With the rise of a global workforce and the popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle, the odds that your boss or colleagues work in the same time zone have decreased exponentially.

    When deadlines roll around expecting an immediate response to a message or email is tempting. But keep in mind that different time zones will affect everything from response times to meeting availability. What seems like a normal or reasonable hour in your time zone may not be similar other remote team members.

General Etiquette

Respect off-hours time

 

Time zones are difficult to keep in order. But to compound the issue, workers must also remain cognizant of other peoples’ off-hours time. What makes this troublesome is that you’re not sure when people are behind their desks. Everyone has different hours. Some may have to work a normal 9-to-5 shift while others have more flexibility and autonomy.

Therefore, you should set boundaries on your own. Think inwardly to develop these habits. Can you be interrupted during a project and carry on without much trouble? Not everyone can. In addition, others may have obligations such as caring for parents or children outside of work hours. So when you find the perfect meme to share at 11 p.m., wait until the next day. As much as humor and impulsivity can enable team solidarity, it can also detract from it.

 

Be Sensitive to Cultural Differences

 

Although casual conversation online has supplanted water cooler chats, consider this. In today’s global workforce, a lighthearted joke in one area of the world is an insult to another.

Since major religious holidays or cultural events in other countries have the potential to affect productivity, ensure all team members are aware of any scheduling restrictions. When joining a global workforce, avoid discussing controversial topics. This list includes religion, politics, or sex.

For digital nomads or companies with a large global workforce, culture shock is a real thing. Spending some time learning about the social norms of your peers can mitigate communication issues and build effective working relationships.

 

Do Unto Others…

In a virtual office environment, isolation is a true concern. You may often feel alone working by yourself. However, remain considerate of your co-workers, staff, and supervisors by ensuring that you are accessible. This doesn’t mean equate to an unrealistic 24-hour-a-day schedule. But practicing good virtual office etiquette means you should communicate your hours of availability. Or, make sure to set aside some designated time to be available for feedback or questions.

When a colleague or client sends you an email or text, virtual office etiquette dictates that you respond in a polite way. Don’t ‘ghost’ your peers. Nothing is more disruptive to virtual collaboration than a disappearing remote worker who refuses to respond to communication attempts.


Be Clear When Communicating Expectations

Remote workers should remember that unless they are solopreneurs, they do not make significant decisions all on their own. No matter how brilliant a new idea is, last-minute decisions can change the scope of a project or impact the team workflow.

 

Collaboration is difficult enough with a remote workforce. According to the 2020 State of Remote Work report, 20% of remote workers struggle with collaboration and communication while working remotely. By encouraging remote staff to communicate with each other and using collaboration software, companies can help maintain and improve productivity.

 

Don’t Waste Others’ Time


Working in a virtual office means you can no longer blame tardiness on traffic delays. So, don’t be late for scheduled conference calls or virtual meetings. This poor virtual office etiquette disrupts everyone’s schedule while they wait for you to join the meeting.

Prior to your calls or virtual meetings, check your equipment and learn how to operate new software or tools. Eliminate distractions by closing windows, turning off the television or stereo, and locking doors to reduce the likelihood of interruptions.

Be prepared with talking points and stick to the agenda. Derailing a meeting while you search for information or engage in small-talk is not only unprofessional but also shows a lack of disrespect for everyone else’s time.

Virtual office etiquette isn’t as straightforward as in a typical office setting, simply because the modes of communication and setting are far different. But don’t let that become an excuse. Instead, employ these ideas, and you’ll find that your mix of professionalism and personality shine through to colleagues, coworkers, and clients.

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