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Hybrid Workplaces Require Ever-Expanding Attention to Etiquette

Natee Meepian Alamy Stock Photo.jpg

Image: Natee Meepian - Alamy Stock Photo
Friends of mine were commiserating about an annoyance of communications today—when someone invites you to a meeting on a platform like Zoom, Teams, or Google Meetings but doesn't include the link and log-in information on the invitation. Two things struck me about this complaint: It was not a one-person quirk, but something that annoyed multiple people, and all of these people had already internalized the expectation that the professional thing to do was to include the meeting log-in information in the invitation.
Their complaint reminded me of the undergraduate course I took in business communication and how we spent 13 weeks unpacking the pro forma information elements one had to include in different types of professional correspondence, from cold-call pitches to memos, from cover letters to emails to the boss.
Their complaint also reminded me of a story I had heard from a tech evangelist from a big cloud company. She's a millennial, and when she was hired, she texted her new team with an excited hello. Her older boss promptly called and left a voicemail saying text was an inappropriate medium for professional communications. It was a revealing look at how variable and context-dependent the definitions of professional communications can be.
The pandemic prompted an abrupt embrace of remote work, and people scrambled to figure out how to retain a patina of professionalism when they were thrust into a whole new way of interacting professionally. (Remember how people reacted when early-pandemic folks proposed a ban on pets zoom-bombing meetings?) There's a whole new genre of articles on what it means to dress professionally in a hybrid workplace. And the disruption of what it means to be professional goes beyond housecat cameos on Zoom and hard pants in the office.
It's been interesting to see how quickly people developed their own internal sense of what constituted hybrid work professionalism—and how quickly unspoken rules of behavior populated across different workplaces. For example, nobody ever told me, "Mute when you join a meeting, check to see if you're unmuted before you speak," but it's become a guideline I've internalized; many platforms automatically mute you when you join a meeting with a number of people already on, but it’s something I’ve learned to check in all instances. Similarly, I now have mental categories for when and where certain emojis are acceptable in Teams meetings as a way to boost my collegial communications.
Some companies have laid out clear guidelines on everything from acceptable backgrounds in virtual meetings to mandatory camera presence; others let employees have more latitude. I've been in meetings where one or more of us has said, "I'm burned out from seeing myself on screen—can we turn off cameras?"
We're running a piece this week where a contributor suggests his best practices for the hybrid workplace —unsurprisingly, they start at home. Workplace leaders' management loads have increased as they discover that "professionalism" is no longer a one-size-fits-all code confined to an office, but something as simultaneously liminal and fluid as the definition of "the modern workplace" is. All I ask is that it includes the simple expectation that any meeting in a collaborative workspace includes the login information.
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