The Six Bad Habits of Remote Co-Workers
By Deanna deBara | Published April 23, 2020
The last thing you want to do is make working at home more challenging for yourself or anyone else on your team. We provide some tips that will help you avoid being "that coworker."
During the coronavirus pandemic, more people are working from home than ever before, many for the first time. And making the transition from working in an office to Work from Home (WFH) can be challenging—especially if the change was unexpected, as it is for so many in the current climate.
The last thing you want to do is make that transition more challenging for yourself or anyone else on your team—whether you're a business owner, a manager, or anyone else in the organization.
Or, in other words, you don't want to be "that co-worker."
But what, exactly, does "that co-worker" look like in a WFH home environment?
Let's take a look at some of the worst habits of remote co-workers—habits you'll want to avoid if you want your team to thrive while working from home:
#1: They won't adapt and adjust to remote technology
Working from home is an adjustment. And that means adjusting to new tools and technology that make remote work possible. Things like messaging apps, cloud-based collaboration tools, and video conferencing software help to connect your team and keep the flow of projects moving—even when everyone is working from different locations.
But some people dig in their heels and, for whatever reason, just refuse to adapt. And those co-workers make things a lot harder for the team to get things done.
So, for example, maybe your team moves their communication to a chat platform like Slack, but you have a co-worker who drags their heels on downloading the app—and as such, they don't get looped in on a project-related conversation and miss an important deadline. Or maybe your team decides to upload all project deliverables to the cloud, but you have one co-worker who can't or won't learn how to add their work—and everyone else is delayed as a result.
The point is, there is a variety of software, tools, and technology that enable teams to efficiently work remotely. But it only works if you and everyone else on your team learns and adapts—and one co-worker who refuses to get on board can make things significantly more challenging for the rest of the team.
If you're a whiz at using the new technology, you can offer to help the holdout team member with one-on-one training. If they still holdout consider asking the team leader or manager to address the team about the importance of working together with the same tools.
#2: They multitask during remote meetings…
If you were meeting with your team in person, you wouldn't whip out your phone and start typing an email or working on a project while someone was in the middle of speaking (we would hope)—so why would you do it in a remote meeting?
Some people are tempted to multitask during virtual meetings because their co-workers can't see what they're doing. They might take the opportunity to half-listen while they work through their inbox, tackle a separate project, or scroll through their social media accounts.
But multitasking during remote meetings is definitely not a habit you want to get into. Not only is it extremely disrespectful to the team members who are leading and participating in the meeting, but it also makes the meetings significantly less effective. If your attention is elsewhere, you're not absorbing the content of the discussion—and it ends up being a complete waste of time.
If you're in a virtual meeting with your team, be present. Give it your full attention and engage with your team and the meeting content. And if you're a leader or business owner and you notice other people on your team multitasking during a virtual meeting, make sure to talk to them afterward—and stress how important it is for them to stay present and engaged.
#3:...or don't use the mute button
While you don't want to stay muted during the entirety of a remote meeting, you also don't want to keep your mic on the entire time. Microphones pick up on background noise, and if you leave your mic on, you run the risk of interrupting the presenter with the sound of your dog barking, the phone ringing, or perhaps the worst, you eating lunch.
Not exactly a recipe for being a popular co-worker.
If you're in a virtual meeting with more than two or three people, leave your microphone on when you're speaking or contributing to the meeting—but when you're just sitting back and listening, make sure to put yourself on mute.
#4: They don't communicate when they are and aren't available
When you and your team are working in the same place, it's easy to tell when someone is or isn't available; all you have to do is swing by their office, and you know instantly if they're at their desk working. If they're not, you can assume they're in another meeting, out to lunch, or took the day off.
But availability isn't so clear when your entire team is working remotely—and that can lead to issues. For example, you might have a two-hour meeting scheduled one afternoon. If you don't let your team know you're unavailable, they might shoot over time-sensitive requests during that two-hour window—and then get frustrated when you don't respond.
When you're working remotely, it's essential to communicate with your team when you are and are not available. Most messaging apps allow you to set a status, but you may have to synchronize it with your meeting calendar (Slack and Teams allow this) to make it automatic. Otherwise, you can just set your status manually as needed.
If you're not using messaging, create a shared calendar that clues key team members into any windows during the day when you'll be out of pocket. Make sure to put on your away message when you sign off for the day, so your team knows you won't be responding to their emails or requests until the following day.
#5: They don't respect their team's boundaries
No, we're not talking about wearing a bathrobe to a video conference (just...don't), we're talking about creating a sense of separation between your work life and your home life is a must when you're WFH; otherwise, it can be a recipe for burnout.
But typically, there's at least one person on a team that takes the term "working from home" to mean "working anytime you're at home." And if you're that person, that's your choice—but don't try to push that choice on your co-workers.
One of the worst habits of remote co-workers is not respecting their team's boundaries. So, for example, sending an email at 11pm and expecting an immediate response? Unless your team has the established standard of working late-night hours, that's not a realistic—or respectful—expectation. The same goes for things like scheduling a mandatory meeting on a Saturday or not giving your co-worker flexibility to attend to their family or personal obligations.
If your co-worker sets a boundary around their WFH situation, you need to respect it.
#6: They slack off
We're going through a challenging time right now—and, as such, teams may need to adjust their productivity expectations and cut everyone some slack as they navigate this transition and figure out how to effectively work from home.
But there's a difference between finding your WFH groove and purposefully slacking off. If there are people on the team who are binge-watching Netflix during work hours or regularly showing up to work late (or not at all), it's time to have a conversation—and if you're that person, it's time to adjust your behavior, STAT.
Create task lists and goals for each day and recommit to getting them done. For more tips on working at home, see our previous posts on the topic.
Empower yourself and your team to thrive in a WFH environment
These bad habits of remote co-workers can make working remotely significantly more challenging. But now that you know the habits to avoid (and the habits to discourage in your team), you have everything you need to practice the kind of WFH behaviors that will help you thrive—and inspire the same in your co-workers.
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Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at deannadebara.com.