COVID-19 has changed some work etiquette. Here’s what to know whether you’re working from home or the office.
By Robin Madell, Contributor Oct. 19, 2020, at 4:30 p.m.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF the workplace have morphed during the coronavirus pandemic. Use the following as a guide to the latest workplace etiquette, whether you’re in the office or working remotely.
If you haven’t been back in your work office since the coronavirus pandemic started, things may be vastly different when you do go back. Here are some etiquette rules to consider as the pandemic continues and some general tips to be a courteous co-worker.
Respect COVID-19 Guidelines in the Office
- For organizations that have employees coming back to work in corporate digsrather than remotely, worker safety and protection are paramount. Take the time before returning to a company office to thoroughly review and understand what the human resources department and management team requires in terms of COVID-19 rules and guidelines. At a minimum, many companies now require employees to adhere to strict social distancing in the office, wear masks, use hand sanitizer and limit the number of participants for in-person meetings. Some offices may have also set up additional safeguards such as plexiglass dividers between workstations. For your protection as well as those around you, be sure to respect and follow all of your company’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Don’t Come Into the Office While Sick
- This should go without saying for any type of illness, but it’s even more important in the COVID-19 era. If you have any cold or flu symptoms, a fever or are simply feeling fatigued and run down, err on the side of caution and stay home. A coworker’s decision around this can serve to protect all staff or could alternatively result in many colleagues getting sick. So be sure to do the right thing and just take a day off if you may be ill.
- In terms of general workplace etiquette, the little things are still important. While you may have become accustomed to making a mess in your own kitchen or workspace if you’ve been working remotely, remember as you return to work that you’re back in a shared space. Keeping your workspace and common areas clean and tidy – including around the coffee machine, microwave or sinks – helps avoid spreading germs and makes for a more pleasant work environment for everyone there.
Keep Noise Down
- One of the most annoying things for employees in shared offices is having to deal with others’ sound levels, whether from talking on their phone too loud or having conversations with others too close to the desks where others are trying to focus and work. To avoid creating this type of disturbance, be sensitive to the volume of your voice, especially when working in cubicles or open office settings.
Be Aware of Others
- Whether it’s wearing heavy perfume that gives your neighbours a headache, leaving your dishes in the communal kitchen sink or taking someone else’s food from the fridge, thoughtlessness in the office can tank goodwill and hurt company culture. Part of work etiquette involves thinking about the ramifications of your actions on your colleagues before doing something that could offend or annoy someone else.
If you continue to work from home, it’s still important to show professionalism and dedication to your job while you’re on the clock. Here are some basic etiquette tips to follow from your remote office.
Log Into Work on Time
- If you’re working from home, don’t get sloppy about your punctuality when starting work and attending meetings. Your boss and team are still relying on you to show up when you say you will, whether that’s being online at 9 a.m. when the workday starts or ensuring you aren’t late to scheduled conference calls.
Don’t Get Too Casual
- While some things can’t be avoided, like a child or pet making an unexpected appearance in your Zoom meeting, you should be intentional about trying to be professional from your home office. Depending on your company’s culture, this might mean dressing like you would for the office on team video calls, doing what you can to create boundaries around your personal and professional life when interacting with your colleagues and choosing a workspace in your homethat’s separate from domestic activities.
Have a Tidy Background During Video Calls
- Many managers are more understanding than they were pre-COVID about employee work setups, knowing that some who are working from home now didn’t have much time to prepare for it. That said, it adds to your professionalism if you can think through what your team sees behind you during Zoom meetings and other video calls. If you don’t have a clean, professional-looking space in your house to take these calls, consider using background images available on Zoom and other platforms. These block out what and who is behind you to avoid embarrassing family photo bombs.
Mute Yourself When Not Speaking on Video
- Hearing your spouse making coffee, your 2-year-old babbling or your dog barking at the UPS delivery in the background during a Zoom call can be distracting and annoying to others in attendance. Simply press the mute button to silence unwanted noise from your household when you’re not talking during the meeting.
Set Office Hours and Be Available During Them
- Some employers worry that employees will be harder to reach while working from home. Prove this concern wrong by setting a reliable schedule that you share with your team that details exactly when they can count on finding you online. By making yourself available at predictable times, you can improve collaboration with your remote team.
Robin Madell began writing for U.S. News & World Report’s On Careers section in 2013, with a focus on productivity, work-life balance, stress management and women’s leadership.