According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of U.S. home-based employment increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015. Many remote workers come from the management, business, financial, writing and education fields. 68 percent of U.S. workers also claim that they expect to work remotely sometime in the near future.
With more startups continuing to move into the digital space, working from home is becoming an increasing reality for many professionals today. The lack of online etiquette is quietly brewing in remote companies, and it is critical to address and fill this growing gap of communication.
Remote workplaces can differ significantly from the traditional office spaces that Baby Boomers and Generation-X workers know so well. Given the lack of face-to-face interaction and a global workforce filled with cultural differences, etiquette, communication rules and understandings can vary. In turn, this can make digitized workspaces a challenge to navigate.
There are benefits that can arise from remote workplaces. For example, engaging with others from around the world, sharing new experiences, personal benefits, and discovering exciting resources can help all stakeholders. Also, building a network of like-minded individuals within your field, while maintaining flexible work hours at home can be a positive experience-especially when everyone follows basic digital etiquette.
Whether you are communicating in an online group, or sending an email, the tips below can help you best navigate your online workspace while providing advantages for all members.
Tone of voice
One of the biggest issues with remote or digital workspaces is the ease with which tone can be misconstrued by those posting and commenting. Often when we communicate digitally, our sound can get lost in translation. For example, a sarcastic statement can make others feel uncomfortable, especially when English speakers assume everyone in the group speaks English as their first language (which is rarely the case).
Before commenting in a remote workplace community, it’s best to read your comment twice before you post. You can also read the statement out loud or share it with a family member who can provide feedback. In turn, this ensures that your true intentions get across properly.
Don’t let your emotions get in the way
Humans are naturally reactive, and we often jump to say the first thing that comes to mind, especially when we are annoyed or upset. Reacting immediately to a problem or statement can be problematic in face-to-face conversations, but becomes even more troublesome in remote or digital workplaces. Because our words online are never truly deleted, it’s imperative to think twice before posting anything. If you’re angry or upset, it may be a good idea to take the time to cool down and organize your thoughts before making a comment or sending an email that may sound rash and filled with emotion.
Consider cultural differences
With remote workplaces, there is a high degree of likelihood that you will work with individuals from all over the world. Given the flexibility of working online, people from various cultures and beliefs can make up one working community. When different countries come together to work, it is in your best interest to research cultural habits, behaviors and expectations. Having an understanding of where your colleagues come from and how they work can help to enhance active communication, prevent arguments, and promote compassion.
Maintain a positive space
While remote work lifts the travel burden, it’s important to remember that digital working forums and communities are still professional places of communication. It is important to keep the community clear of attacking others.
A good rule of thumb to remember: If you wouldn’t say something in the brick and mortar office, don’t say it online.
Positive workspaces are a necessity to accomplish productive work. Offer supportive commentary, constructive feedback, and valued assistance. By working as a team, you can promote a balanced presence in your remote workplace, and can also help your colleagues thrive.
Digital working communities can sometimes offer a sense of disconnect between yourself and others on your team. However, it’s critical to remember that just like traditional offices with HR Departments, remote teams must maintain a sense of privacy and policies. Be aware of your online surroundings when you share information and resources. Consider the private lives of the community and those involved when deciding what to share with your online group.
It’s easy to take your emotions out on the computer and walk away. However, any comments, whether negative or positive, can have a significant impact on your career immediately or ten years down the road.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.