Employees report higher levels of rudeness in the remote workplace, often in the form of “micro-rudeness”. You’ve likely been on the receiving end of unpleasantries like “per my last email”, or maybe you’ve sent a few without even realizing it.

Here’s what leaders should know about these worrying trends and what they can do to improve communication and workplace relationships remotely.

Remote workplace communication isn’t ideal

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 60% of employees feel less connected to their coworkers after working remotely. Human beings simply didn’t evolve to talk to each other over email or video calls. Communication would ideally be face to face, allowing the other person to see your facial expressions, hear your tone of voice, and follow your hand gestures for added emphasis.

As our form of communication moves further away from face to face, incivilities appear to increase for remote workers. After some thought, this is the only logical outcome. Remote workplace communication leaves no room for the usual civilities used in an on-site workplace, and the person on the receiving end is inevitably left feeling a little slighted.

The email that breaks the camel’s back

It isn’t as easy to hash out your differences or get to the root of a conflict when working from home. Typically, we would hash it out at the water cooler or over coffee, but instead, these subtle acts of aggression accumulate over time and result in larger, more convoluted conflicts.

Because we cannot communicate as effectively when working from home, someone can be completely unaware that their “concise” email triggered the recipient to become angry. It is more difficult to see signs of distress from a distance, through a screen, or between the lines of an email. This environment leads to the slow and eventual breakdown of a relationship within a team.

Establish good remote work etiquette with your team

Leaders have a vital role to play in establishing remote work etiquette in communications over email, video calls, and instant messages. This can significantly improve workplace communication because much of the communications perceived as rude are often not intended to be insulting. Consider establishing these expectations with your team.

Give the person speaking your attention. It’s easy to tell when your audience isn’t being attentive. You might hear typing in the background of a call or catch the flashing colors of an e-commerce website reflecting off someone’s face. Make sure your team knows when these behaviors are not appropriate.

Avoid pinging coworkers after hours. Messaging coworkers when they are “away” from the office can be considered intrusive. With our offices moved into our homes, setting boundaries between work and life is a must.

Prioritize meetings and discussions. Surveys show that 43% of workers don’t feel heard during virtual meetings. Be mindful of who hasn’t had a chance to speak and give them the opportunity to have the floor.

As long as leaders understand the challenges of remote and seek to overcome them, they can help reduce bad manners in the workplace and bring teams closer together.

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