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Staying Connected While Teleworking (Including the Rules of Instant Messaging)

by Mary Talley / September 17, 2020

Right now, we are in an interim period in terms of returning to the workplace. Some people are starting to return to the office with protocols in place for social distancing, limited occupancy, and increased sanitation. Some are still full-time teleworking. Still others are falling somewhere in between – a combination of working in the office with safety protocols and teleworking the rest of the time. No matter where you fall, these friendly pointers from Miss Telework Manners may be helpful to you. In this installment, I offer solutions to two additional challenges you may be facing during these crazy times. Happy reading!

How to Remain Connected While Teleworking

Dear Miss Telework Manners: I work in an office where my department goes in one day a week and teleworks the other four days. Sometimes when I am working remotely, I feel like I am on an island all by myself. I miss the collaboration that occurs on my day in the office. How do I stay connected with my coworkers on the days we are working from home?

-- Rescue Me From My Telework Island

Dear Rescue Me:

Some people argue that coworkers cannot stay as connected when working remotely but that does not need to be true. Here are my tips to help maintain connectivity while you are teleworking:

  • Notify your supervisors, coworkers, and customers where and when you will be working – It is crucial to let people know how to reach you and when you are available for meetings and calls.
  • Share your calendar with your colleagues – My company has a shared calendar and I can attest that it is great being able to look in one place to see when everybody is available.
  • Be a good emailer – Use the subject line to alert the reader to the topic, the level of urgency, and the required action.
  • Use instant messaging for quick questions and answers – A lot of people will say they don’t what to instant message a coworker who is teleworking for fear of “bothering” them. Unless their calendar (see my point above) says they are on vacation, feel free to send an instant message.
  • Be available and responsive - Answer calls and respond to messages and emails promptly.

Those are the basics, from someone who has teleworked for years and feels closer to my coworkers now than when I worked in an office! Good luck to you and stay well!

The Rules of Instant Messaging

Dear Miss Telework Manners: I just love instant messaging my coworkers. So much better than the old days when you had to pick up the phone for every single thing or compose an email for every quick question! Can you please give me some etiquette tips for instant messaging in the workplace (or in many people’s cases, from the home office)?

-- IM Looking to Be A Polite IMer

Dear IM:

This is a great question. Here are my instant messaging ground rules:

  • While instant messaging is a less formal means of communication, you still need to maintain professionalism. Write in complete, grammatically correct sentences. This isn’t texting.
  • Don’t barge in, so to speak. If a coworker has the “Do Not Disturb” alert turned on, do not disturb them. Duh!
  • Speaking of the “Do Not Disturb” alert, use it when you are doing “heads down” work and don’t want anyone to intrude on your time. Mine is up right now!
  • Start every IM with a brief greeting. It’s just plain rude not to!
  • Be concise and to the point. If you are not going to be brief, send an email!
  • Be patient in waiting for a response.
  • Never put anything in an instant message that you wouldn’t read aloud.
  • Don’t deliver bad news by IM. This is a time when a phone call or an in-person conversation would be better.

Those are my pointers. Hope you find them helpful!

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and healthy work

Tags: Telework

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Mary Talley

Mary Talley

Mary has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked as a facility planning analyst for Fentress since 2003. In her free time, she enjoys baking, decorating, and spending time with her family.