How to Talk to The Team: the Remote Working Type-Tiquette Guide

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The CEOs have said it: keep cameras on during WFH video calls to retain a face-to-face feel. But there’s not always time for Zoom. So how do you keep up comms when you can’t see their facial expression?

Is “OK” too passive-aggressive? Emojis too cheesy? This is a remote -working type-tiquette guide.

Don’t be short

No. Right. OK. Fine. One word is OK if you’re standing in front of someone, but can be blunt on email or Slack, says Cheryl Isaacs, a psychologist at OPM Consulting in Wandsworth.

So be conscious: “Take a few seconds to say thank you before starting your email,” and spell things out even when busy. “This brief looks great, thank you” is clearer and warmer than a possibly sarcastic or frustrated “great”.

Water-cooler WhatsApps

Out-of-office mode is no excuse to stop asking your deskmate about their weekend.

Tea breaks and gossip are essential to keep spirits high, says Julian Jost, chief executive of event company Spacebase. He urges his team to “over-communicate” on WhatsApp, Slack and Microsoft Meet while at home.

Ask colleagues how their evening was before you start the nitty-gritty, and keep up the work WhatsApp group: how everyone’s finding isolation, how are the kids and the dog? At the least, it’s an excuse to see pictures of your boss’s poodle.

Know your audience

Consider personalities, says Isaacs. “If you’ve got a colleague who loves to know the details of a project, they’re not going to change,” so spell things out.

Big-picture person? Send bullet points not detail. The one who loves gossip? Start up a separate Slack channel and ask how they’re coping with that awful flatmate.

If your boss prefers direct emails keep that up.

Keep smiling

Sharing emojis is a thumbs-up. According to Adobe’s latest Emoji Trend Report, 61 per cent of us use them at work and last year 59 per cent of workers saw people as “warmer and friendlier” when they used them.

Emojis are important to use when chatting to colleagues on instant message apps (Bernard Hermant / Unsplash)

The most effective? Faces, says Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge.

A new paper in journal Behaviour & Information Technology found use of emoji faces “produces neural responses that are similar to those that are observed in face-to-face communication,” add a smiley if you want your “OK” to seem less passive-aggressive.

Status matters

Just as you’d tell your boss you’re off for a lunchtime run, do the same at home. The biggest tip from Slack HQ staff? Custom statuses.

“We set a custom status to let everyone know that we’ve stepped away, or offline, or on calls and maybe slow to respond,” the site’s new Covid remote-working guide explains.

Statuses can be set to automatically expire, so “at lunch” doesn’t accidentally last all afternoon.

Credit: OPM Consulting / Katie Strick

Working with OPM has been a great experience. OPM Associates are incredibly talented and responsive, willing to be flexible to meet our changing needs. Feedback from our staff and managers is always positive, in particular how well OPM Associates have been able to overcome difficult challenges and provide inspiration to others.”

Anna Petts, Assistant Director,
Organisational Development & Learning at London Business School

June 29, 2020