Welcome to 2017, where the digitization of the workforce is common practice. It’s more likely you’ll receive an email to a video conference meeting than a phone call telling you to meet everyone at a physical location. And that isn’t a bad thing. Productivity and collaboration are increasing in office spaces due to the level of simplicity digital work provides.
The bad news is, not everyone is a natural at it. We all know that one guy in the office who can never seem to remember how to work the copy machine or asks the same questions about his Outlook calendar nearly every day. It happens. But to ensure YOU are not that guy (or girl), here are three tips to boost your digital etiquette(or netiquette) and make it look like you know what you’re doing.
Acknowledge digital communication as much as you can.
When people shoot out an email or instant message, uncertainty quickly sets in. Common thoughts include: Did Bob get my message? I hope he didn’t accidently delete it. Do you think it was sent to his spam folder for some reason? Did I send it to the right address? Was there a typo I didn’t see? Is Bob mad at me? Okay, the last one may be a stretch but it could happen. Suddenly you and Bob are no longer friends.
When someone communicates with you digitally, simply acknowledge the interaction. It doesn’t have to be much, just a little something. For example, if Bob sends you a new project and says it needs to be completed by mid-month, respond with something like, “No problem. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.” You and Bob are friends again!
Or if Mary asks you to send her a report but you don’t have time to put it together right now, respond by saying, “I’ll send it to you as soon as I get a free moment. It’ll probably be around 3PM today, but if I don’t get to you by 4PM, please follow up with me.” With this type of quick response, not only do you give them a deadline but an established time for follow up. You eliminate the uncertainty and the need for unnecessary and annoying follow-up emails.
Choose your medium wisely.
There are so many different mediums when it comes to digital communications and interactions. You may have some form of an internal database for updates and communication, and then you have options like phone, video, IM, and email on top of file-sharing software like Dropbox or Google Drive. Things can start to feel (and look) a little chaotic, which can lead to unnecessary stress and frustration. Ensuring you have reliable technology is another way to eleviate stress.
To avoid this, have an established process for how things are handled. For some businesses, this can get pretty detailed, and you may have to consider things such as what goes where, when things are checked, how often something occurs, and how to narrow down a medium. For example, new projects and tasks are forbidden to be handled via IM or email and are only to be discussed on a specified project management board. Establishing processes like this will eliminate the guessing factor and the unfortunate tendency for things to slip through those pesky cracks.
Be early to digital meetings.
When it comes to video or voice conference meetings, people tend to go from perfectly normal to unreasonably irritated in less than a minute. It’s not like in-house meetings where everyone slithers their way into the conference room looking like they’d rather be anywhere else and then the ball gets rolling whenever everyone finally shows up.
If you’re not set up and ready for a digital meeting ten minutes early, then you are late. You better believe that someone on the other side of that phone or screen is making a comment about your inexcusable tardiness. For some bizarre reason, if you’re not already on the line before the meeting is scheduled to begin, professionals naturally assume you’re going to stand them up. It's certainly my immediate thought. Be early every single time, unless you want everyone to think you’re a flake.