Minding Your Manners in a Hybrid Workplace

Wednesday 01 February 2023 13:01
Just as more and more organizations are making plans for their employees to return to the office in larger numbers, just as many are also offering their employees the flexibility to choose where and how to work. Before the pandemic, over half of companies in Asia expected their staff to work in the office full time, according to the Center for Creative Leadership; this number has now fallen to just 13 percent. If it weren't already obvious that Hybrid Work has firmly entrenched itself in the modern workplace, the same report notes Ms Elisa Mallis, managing director and vice-president of Asia-Pacific at the Center for Creative Leadership, as saying that workers are willing to take even a 20 per cent pay cut for remote roles.
Minding Your Manners in a Hybrid Workplace

When in the office, social norms and cultural values can be communicated quite easily, either verbally or by observation. For a hybrid workplace, however, things are a little more complicated; etiquette and protocols must be more clearly communicated across distributed teams, so that everyone can be kept on the same page, while also aiming to achieve equity with it comes to the entire meeting engagement and experience. As the modern workplace continues to emphasize communicating online, how should we behave?

Poly partnered with Debrett's, the renowned authority on modern etiquette, to create a guide for global etiquette in the hybrid workplace, which offers updated advice for the hybrid work era at a time when etiquette in the office - whether at home or at work - has never been more important. Here are a few key takeaways that I think are particularly important.

Dress for success, whether virtually, or in person 

The obvious choice for hybrid workers is to wear relaxed, comfortable clothing when working from home. While it could be timesaving and convenient for homeworkers to wear sportswear or pyjamas, the clothes one wears during work does have a psychological impact on productivity.

To channel work mode, it is better to dress as if you can be seen from top-to-toe from the camera. Pay attention to the color and pattern of your chosen clothing while on camera, such as neutral clothes that don't scream 'sportswear'. Most importantly though, for the times that you do have to go into the office, please remember that you do have a public-facing persona, and that you should make the effort to look professional and appropriate for the occasion.

If you're working from home, some set-dressing can help your colleagues better focus on you, and not your background. Neutral backdrops are best, while piles of unfolded laundry and messy bookshelves should be avoided. Try to ensure that background distractions from noisy children or pets can be shut out by finding a room away from the rest of the household, if possible. When working from the office, finding a quiet meeting room for calls is important, but if you are forced to use a communal space, blur your background.

There are only 24 hours in a day

Hybrid working has allowed us the luxury of time to plan our own timetable, which may or may not align with conventional working hours and days. While flexibility should be accommodated, it's equally important that a 24/7 working culture doesn't end up becoming the norm; just because employees are home-based doesn't mean that they are available 24/7.

To avoid demands being made at all hours of the day and night in a hybrid working setting, keep everybody aware of your availability by using 'out-of-office' notifications, blocking your calendar, or explanations of working hours and contact numbers, on your email footer. It is also important to schedule regular meetings ahead of time.

Impressions still matter

Just like any meeting, being punctual is a sign of respect that gives a feeling that someone is well-prepared. The same etiquette applies online; it is important to sign in on time for all virtual meetings and don't leave your colleagues hanging and waiting to see if you'll turn up. If you're going to be late, circulate a quick explanatory note to meeting participants.

Equally important is that though the meeting window is small, it is already enough to make an impression. The right amount of body language, like maintaining eye contact when speaking to the camera, agreement by nodding to someone's sharing, sitting up straight, or even by simply smiling when you're speaking, can help make you more engaging with other attendees in the meeting.

If there is the opportunity to use video during calls, that becomes an opportunity to read the room and judge is your body language is appropriate. However, unless you've got very good reason not to (for example you may be 'monitoring' the call while dealing with another issue, or you may be ill or travelling), you should explain at the outset.

Take sickness more seriously

If the covid era has taught us anything, it is that we should take sickness seriously. Don't struggle into the office if you've got a cough or cold or anything contagious. Nobody will applaud your stoicism. Work from home if you must (and feel up to it) or take a sick day. You will be far more productive at optimal health.

Hybrid working is here to stay, and by practising good hybrid working etiquette as well as putting effort into making hybrid meetings feeling more natural will go a long way towards creating a more equal meeting experience for those in the room or dialling in from home and ensuring that an increasingly distributed workforce will stay focused and productive for the long run.

Source: Communication Arts

Minding Your Manners in a Hybrid Workplace