Over-communicate, but don't micromanage: Ritwik Sharma's tips for our new work ways.
Work from home requires homework.
By now we all know that if we are to get into work mode, we need to first of all dress for it.
But that's just the first step.
"Create an environment as close to that of the office as possible," says corporate etiquette trainer Shital Kakkar Mehra.
And if you are the boss, then quickly get into the habit of constantly "over-communicating," she advises.
In the absence of face-to-face meetings, informal interactions and 'water cooler talk', which are a given in offices, rumours and speculations over sales, layoffs, pay cuts and so on get heightened.
Managers have to over-communicate, send emails stating facts and give frequent, crisp messages, says Mumbai-based Mehra.
Building trust and confidence becomes all the more important in such uncertain times.
In terms of your appearance, keep it professional.
When it comes to dressing, you can bring it a notch lower compared to your in-office attire but you cannot afford to be in casuals.
Although dressing norms vary across sectors, corporate professionals must stick to formal shirts at the very least and add a jacket or blazer while attending a board meeting.
"Grooming is important. Your hair has to be brushed back and you have to look like you are ready for business," says Mehra.
Activating video on the screen also sends out an important signal.
Remember to check your camera, its height and angle -- above the eye level is ideal.
In an e-mail, the context -- the thinking and intention of a sender -- can get lost.
And merely listening in during a meeting deprives people from picking cues that help in team spirit and leadership.
As Mehra puts it, "When you see people, you build a connect."
It is also necessary to invest in the right audio equipment.
This may mean ordering noise-cancelling headphones.
You should also keep the speaker on mute, unmuting it only when you speak.
This applies particularly when you have several participants, and ensures you don't speak over each other.
And while you cannot control external noise, you can block it by shutting doors and windows or using pillows and cushions (blankets too, weather permitting) to avoid echo.
If you wish to go a step further, invest in acoustic foam.
Clarity of thought and communication is important at a time when people are in a virtual loop and have to deal with distractions at home.
"Speak loudly, clearly and crisply to retain people's attention," Mehra says.
If you have the luxury of space, create a work zone where you can take calls and function without disturbance.
As far as possible, slot a few hours for important meetings and calls.
Before a virtual meeting, check yourself on a screen.
Natural light is the best.
Softer lighting during the day is helpful, but be wary of contrast.
Use curtains to diffuse or reduce glare.
If you use artificial light, choose even over bright.
Add a table lamp, if you have to, but position it in a way that your face is clearly visible and there are no ghostly shadows on it.
The background should similarly be given a thought.
Keep it simple and tidy.
Boring is good as it offers no distraction.
"Having bookshelves, a white wall with a painting or your company logo are fine," says Mehra.
She adds that in a virtual world, resolving conflicts is urgent.
"Today, because you are on a screen, business has become very transactional. Training, off-sites, chit chats have all finished. Managers have to compensate for that and at the same time let go of micromanagement."
*Kindly note the images have been posted only for representational purposes.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com