The Art of Remote Etiquette

Whether your team is accustomed to working remotely or new to it, parts of a healthy team culture are the practices of good team etiquette. 

In many ways, culture is what’s normal in the life of a team. Creating new normals are opportunities to shift our cultures. We think about etiquette as the norms of respectful behavior that make people feel comfortable together. The new and persistent question of remote etiquette is a call for inventing new approaches as never before. This will be especially important as we make transitions back to workplaces and blended environments.

Giving attention to how we define work etiquette together is in part based on the principle that sometimes the big things are the little things.

Teams can take time to come to agreement on etiquette expectations by considering an array of possible etiquette contexts. Here are some examples to focus on:

  • How to make smooth and engaging conversations in video and phone conferencing
  • Making sure our video, audio, appearance, and background environments are in order
  • When and whether to require the use of video
  • What gets addressed and shared in email or team chat
  • How calendar sharing works
  • When and how we ask for help
  • Needing to have water-cooler conversations with others on the team
  • Respecting people’s time, at work and off work

When forming team agreements, it’s useful to check to see if anyone has any specific concerns or exceptions the group should consider. When it’s unclear how something might actually work or there are conflicts in proposed approaches, it’s useful to do a timed experiment with each possible approach, followed by a group critique of what worked and how to move forward.

To craft the best courtesies possible, anything that could add to or detract from people’s comfort in our work is good material. It’s also a good idea to revisit and potentially revise agreements at regular intervals. Why not use this as a shout-out time for everyone to cite recent examples of when things went well? This energizes and strengthens the culture of the team.


About Jack

In my late twenties I had the good fortune to have mentors who were practice leaders in what was then called the Human Potentials Movement. They inspired me to help organizations and communities realize their potential in ways they never imagined. It became clear this was the core gift that would shape the past 40 years.