Professional Etiquette When Working from Home – 10 Tips to Protect Your Virtual Reputation

A couple cleaning their virtual offices

It’s been months now since the pandemic upended our lives. But for the foreseeable future, it looks like we’ll be dealing with several changes ushered in with COVID. One of those changes for many of us is working from home. Reportedly, about 25 percent of us are working at home full-time still. Many others are splitting their time between their home office and their office. Thus, it’s important to think about how well you’re maintaining a good virtual reputation in the process. In other words, how’s your virtual office etiquette?

There’s no doubt that you have had to deal with a pet and/or children suddenly bursting into a Zoom meeting. These types of interruptions are bound to happen every now and then. But other mishaps are less excusable, especially when it comes to sharing personal things that should be private. Not only is this poor virtual office etiquette, but it can make a bad impression on your colleagues and employer. This why protecting your virtual reputation is important. And the following 10 tips will help you do just that.

  • Tip #1 – Keep Your Attire Professional

It’s easy to dress down when working from home. But one way to avoid an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction is to keep your attire professional. Especially if you’re attending frequent videoconferences, virtual office etiquette encourages you to dress for success. Looking the look is one way to help protect your virtual reputation as one that is truly professional. And you won’t have to worry about sharing more of yourself than you want by accident.

  • Tip #2 – Use a Virtual Background

When colleagues see you on videoconferences at home, what do they see in the background? A blank wall or shelves full of books are fine. But a risqué nude painting is probably not. You might love the art, but someone else might find it offensive. One way around sharing too much of your home with your colleagues is to use a virtual background. Zoom offers ways to create your own customized office background as do many other sites.

  • Tip #3 – Turn off Your Camera When Unused

One of the best tips for preserving your virtual reputation is to turn off your camera when not in use. This is not only good virtual office etiquette for you but your colleagues as well. This takes the pressure off you to be “on” and allows you to focus on what’s being communicated. Likewise, not seeing others constantly is less exhausting throughout a meeting. You should still greet your colleagues at the start visually. But if you’re not presenting, turning your camera off is a good idea.

  • Tip #4 – Mute Yourself in Larger Group Meetings

Background noise can be a problem when working from home and conducting video calls. Dogs barking, babies crying, and construction noise can make for a distracting environment. Likewise, having background noise in the mix from too many attendees can also be a problem. Therefore, good virtual office etiquette suggests that you should mute yourself in larger group calls except when speaking. This and trying to keep your home office as noise-free as possible will definitely help protect your virtual reputation as a professional.

  • Tip #5 – Don’t Multitask During Meetings

If you’re in the office talking with a colleague, you wouldn’t check your email or Twitter at the same time. Therefore, you shouldn’t do it from your virtual office either. Despite what you think, others will notice if your camera is on. Likewise, this will undermine your ability to hear what others are saying. If you’re in a meeting, virtual office etiquette calls for your undivided attention. Your colleagues will certainly appreciate it.

  • Tip #6 – Share Apps, Not Your Screen

An important strategy to protect your virtual reputation at work is to protect your privacy. With this in mind, you don’t often need everyone in a meeting to see your entire computer desktop. Therefore, instead of sharing your desktop, share just the application being discussed. This will prevent anyone from seeing what other windows or tabs you might be exploring. And as preferred virtual office etiquette, it helps keep everyone on task as well.

  • Tip #7 – Use Work Devices for Work Only

Many employers have provided their employees with home computers and other equipment. If this is the case, it’s important to use such equipment only for work-related activity. In some cases, employers monitor web-tracking or take screenshots while you’re working. If you happen to be surfing the web for personal interests, you might just be out of luck. This could trigger reprimands as well as tarnish your virtual reputation in the process.

  • Tip #8 – Invest in Some Professional Décor

You might not love the virtual office etiquette idea of a virtual office background. If so, then spending a little money of some professional office décor might be a good idea. Getting some better lighting, a professional picture, and an external microphone are some considerations. This can create a more realistic feel and enhance your virtual reputation in the process. And if you end up working remotely indefinitely, it will certainly be money well spent.

  • Tip #9 – Triple Check Emails and Texts

While this is always a good idea, triple-checking your digital communications is even more important when working virtually. Because all your interactions are now virtual, the potential for mistakes and misunderstanding are increased. Therefore, taking the extra time to proofread can definitely help preserve your virtual reputation. This may not be a specific virtual office etiquette recommendation, but it’s important to consider all the same.

  • Tip #10 – Make Apologies Sincere

Despite your best efforts, it’s possible you may still slip up and make a mistake. If that’s the case, never fear. If it is something minor, use some light humor and move onto the topic at hand. If it’s something more serious, take the time to sincerely apologize and ensure others that it won’t happen again. Honesty and sincerity can go a long way in protecting your virtual reputation as well as your professional image.

A home office workstation all nice and clean
Virtual offices are definitely a thing now, which means virtual office etiquette must also be a thing.

Treat Your Home Office Like Your Work Office

All of the above tips are part of good virtual office etiquette that you may want to consider. But perhaps the best tip is to simply treat your home office like your work office. Always ask yourself, “Would I behave this way at work?” If the answer is no, then you may want to reconsider your actions. This can affect whether others see you as a true professional. With your virtual reputation on the line, the way you approach your home office is certainly important.


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