The 10 Commandments of Remote Work Etiquette

The 10 Commandments of Remote Work Etiquette

By: Laurel Farrer

It’s a digital world. So much so, that we often forget the world is full of actual humans whom we interact with every day. Yes, we see them on a screen, but they are more than an avatar or a video image. Each of them deserves the same courtesy and respect we would give to a co-located team member.

Let’s start treating our fellow humans with respect by following these 10 commandments of remote work etiquette:

1. Thou shalt not have phone calls in busy public spaces. The person on the other end of the line doesn’t want to hear the clinking of coffee cups, and the person sitting next to you shouldn’t be listening to your profit losses from last quarter. Being aware of the people and noise around you also applies to home offices. Trust me, you don’t want your potential client to overhear the Sesame Street theme song during the middle of your sales pitch.)

2. Thou shalt not type a time without a time zone. Avoid the “Is that 10 am my time, or 10 am your time?” back-and-forth with 3 simple letters. (Tip: know what the correct time zone abbreviations are and use them. Also, schedule events in your guest’s time zone, just to be nice.)

3. Thou shalt test your audio and/or video before a call. This is not the late 90s. The words, “Can you hear me now?” should never escape your lips. Always make a test call to a friend if you’re trying new software, and know what your reception is going to be for the duration of a call. (Tip: If you’re driving and you don’t know what the coverage is 15 miles away, pull over while coverage is still strong.)

4. Thou shalt prepare for calls. A virtual meeting is still a meeting. Show up looking, feeling, and acting like a professional. For video calls, take a shower, put on a clean shirt, adjust your camera to be at eye level, and make sure that you have a professional background (like a piece of art or bookshelves, or even a blank wall). If it’s just a phone call, go to the bathroom, refill your mug or water bottle, and maybe get a little exercise so that you’re alert, not distracted, and ready to rumble.

5. Thou shalt not multitask. Modern technology makes it easy to do many things at once, but that doesn’t always mean you should. If you’re communicating with others, focus on them, and them alone. Minimize the other tabs on your screen, silence your phone, and never eat or go to the bathroom during a call. Being on mute or having your camera turned off is not an excuse. You can wait. If you’re desperate or the meeting is running long, ask for a 5-minute break.


6. Thou shalt validate. If you’re working in a public space, show some gratitude by patronizing the establishment. At the very least, buy a drink or snack for every hour or two that you’re on-site, but better yet, buy a meal, be kind to other patrons, and leave a tip.


7. Thou shalt know what you sound like. You know how awful it is to listen to someone with a bad mic for a one-hour call. But for all you know, that someone could be you! Ask a friend to sit in your office or use your equipment while you call them from a different location. For phone calls, make sure your audio comes through loud and clear and that there isn’t any loud background noise. For video calls, confirm your face is fully lit and visible, and there isn’t any dirty underwear or Lisa Frank posters visible in the background.


8. Thou shalt be respectful of time. Never assume you are anyone’s highest priority. Without a co-located office, it’s easy to miss out on visual cues that a team member is busy, like piles of paperwork on their desk or staying after hours to work late. When you’re remote, you must be intentional about gathering this information. If you’re imposing a tight deadline for a new project, ask about what other work they currently have. If you’re sending a direct text or ping, be aware of what time it is in their time zone.


9. Thou shalt use an agenda. When hosting or participating in a meeting, respect the attendees’ time and other obligations as much as possible. Before the call, distribute the topics to be discussed, then stick to the allotted time during the call. If another topic comes up that you want to spend more time on, add it to the next meeting’s agenda, or schedule another call to resolve.


10. Thou shalt not be late. As a remote worker, there is no excuse. You cannot get stuck in traffic or get lost while finding the conference room. If you are going to run late to a meeting, be sure to let all attendees know at least a few minutes in advance.


We’ve all been guilty of breaking one or more of these 10 commandments at some point, but the key to making remote work “work” for managers and workers is humanizing our communication. Keeping in mind the Golden Rule, let’s treat our co-workers as we would want them to treat us.  

Do you have thoughts about remote work etiquette? Tweet us @yonder_io and let’s discuss how we can improve each and every interaction.

Laurel Farrer is the COO here at Yonder. She always has a notebook and pen within arm's reach, never sits with both feet on the floor, and drives (safely) without depth perception.