The digital world has revolutionised the workplace, particularly when it comes to communication. From email to instant messenger apps, there are numerous ways to interact with clients and co-workers in real time. The speed and ease of digital communication methods make it possible to work in new ways – meetings can be conducted virtually as teleconferences, working hours are no longer limited to time physically spent in the office and anyone in any part of the world is simply a few clicks away. This means increased productivity, decreased costs and a flexible workforce. However, it can be easy to fall into the trap of treating digital interactions as casual. Despite the lack of face-to-face contact, there are certain rules of business etiquette that need to be observed to maintain a professional image. These include:
Rules Of Business Etiquette
Don’t lose track of time:
Treat telephonic meetings and teleconferences with the same respect for punctuality as you would a formal boardroom meeting. It can be easy to let a few minutes slip past while setting up an internet connection, logging on to an app and even finding a spot with adequate signal. Instead of letting these issues eat into the allocated meeting time and wasting the time of other participants, build set-up time into your schedule to make sure that you are prepared and ready to start promptly.
You wouldn’t answer emails or take personal calls in front of a client or co-worker in a formal meeting environment, so don’t be tempted to do so just because the other person cannot see what you are doing off-screen. Silence all notifications as these can be annoying to other people as well as distraction, and ensure that you are able to give your full attention to the proceedings.
Master email etiquette:
Email can be an extremely effective way of communicating – but a poor email writing style can create a very bad impression. Cultivate good email habits: Be friendly and polite, but not overly familiar. Don’t use internet speak or abbreviations such as “LOL” and never use emoticons and emojis in a business context. Get into the habit of proofreading emails to ensure that your spelling and grammar are correct.
Clarity is key:
People use visual cues and body language when communicating, which is why messages and emails can be left open to interpretation. To avoid misunderstandings, be direct and clear, and don’t waffle. A good rule is to state the main request and urgent details in the first few sentences of the email. It is also useful to list action points and assign tasks and deadlines, to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no misunderstandings.
It can be extremely frustrating when people don’t respond to your mails or requests and can even hinder your work progress, so be aware of doing it to others. You don’t have to be a slave to your computer, tablet or smartphone, but set up a system where you allocate a block of time each day to clear your inbox. If you are unable to do something immediately, don’t ignore the request. Instead, respond with an indication of when you are able to give the matter some attention to manage expectations and reassure others that you are aware of the issue.
What to Expect
Ultimately, using correct etiquette in the digital work environment gives you the edge with regards to appearing professional and competent, whether it is with a colleague, superior or client. Seemingly small details can have a big impact, so be consistent and meticulous and reap the rewards.