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If your last couple of years have been anything like the ones I’ve had, it’s probably been full of video calls fraught with mute button user errors, young children and pets becoming unofficial members of the team, and at least 10 minutes of talking about the pandemic before getting down to business.

But what we don’t spend enough time talking about is what we do better when we’re virtual—the things we do that make up a virtual etiquette, which brings out our humanity and should be made standard as many of us return to the office. But if returning to the office is not in your future, it’s still worth taking the time to think about what we’ve gotten right over the past couple years and how we can continue moving forward. 

So today I wanted to do two things:

  • Break down a few habits from working virtually that have really brought the best out in us.
  • Ask you to contribute your thoughts on this question: What are some things that we do when working virtually that we should bring with us when we are in person again?

Here is our list of the 4 best virtual etiquette habits that we’d do well to adopt into in-person working environments (and continue doing in our virtual meetings & remote meetings):

1. Respecting Professional And Personal Schedules

illustration of a calendar with specific days of the week highlighted
Everyone has their own schedule, and it's important for the team and you as the project manager to respect that.

Perhaps not always, but I’ve noticed more folks giving advance meeting notice and sending invites with meeting agendas or anticipated outcomes, rather than pulling attendees and meeting participants into a structureless session that was already an hour in.

I’ve also often seen greater respect for not booking virtual meetings over non-working time as well as more empathy for the fact that people may be joining up late because they were fumbling through setting up Google Classroom for their child’s virtual classroom.

This respect for schedules inside and outside of work is something I think we should continue to incorporate into the way we work, both virtually and in-person.

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2. Understanding Your Team At A Human Level

illustration of a heart
It's important to practice empathy.

Before the pandemic, I didn’t really know a lot about the home lives of my team members. Within a few weeks, I knew a lot about their working environment, family, and pets.

It’s given me a greater appreciation of the different pressures that they are under and also how flexible they are in their daily work.

We are all three-dimensional people who are more than the one-dimensional personas we can sometimes become at the office. I hope it will become more acceptable to bring your whole self to work—whether in-person or virtual—as folks return to the office.

3. Embracing Technology

illustration of a laptop with a light bulb above it
Keeping up to date with the latest technology helps keep async communications running smoothly.

How many people could say that they knew how to properly use Microsoft Teams or Zoom before we were required to use them so extensively?

I had a few peers that were actively hostile when it came to using new software or technology and would try to find any reason not to use them.

But by providing training (and, well, by being forced), these resistors are now leading the way in how these platforms can boost our productivity when an email needs to be a working meeting (and vice versa).

4. Dispelling The Myths That ‘Working From Home’ Is Unproductive

illustration of weight scales with one side highlighted
Most teams are looking for a balance of in-person and remote work.

This may sound like an obvious one, but I think the implications are huge. Many organizations previously believed that work could only be accomplished with “butts in seats” and that if you were working from home, you were probably just watching Netflix all day.

I’ve now seen people respect the extra hours and additional effort that team members are putting in, and there are far fewer ‘jokes’ made about slacking off.

Here’s the thing: even as some organizations bring folks back into the office, we are seeing a balanced mix of in-person and remote work and collaboration. So this understanding will have a permanent impact on all ways of working, no matter where folks are working from.

What Do You Think?

So here’s our challenge to you: what virtual etiquette do you feel should be carried forward into our post-pandemic reality?

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share them below!

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Digital Project Manager’s newsletter, where we’re sharing more tips for virtual work in the context of project management.

Galen Low
By Galen Low

Galen is a digital project manager with over 10 years of experience shaping and delivering human-centered digital transformation initiatives in government, healthcare, transit, and retail. He is a digital project management nerd, a cultivator of highly collaborative teams, and an impulsive sharer of knowledge. He's also the co-founder of The Digital Project Manager and host of The DPM Podcast.