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You Still Need to Be Professional When Working From Home

April 1st, 2020

Experienced work-at-homers know to keep the dog out and the door closed when on a conference call. For video meetings, they know it's important to present a professional appearance. That may mean dressing as they would in the office. They're also mindful of what's in the background that everyone can see.

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Now that so many of us are working from home for the first time, it's too easy to fall into bad habits and neglect to practice the same professionalism we do when surrounded by colleagues. For team leaders it's important to recognize that managing remote workers in the best of times requires greater understanding and even stronger communication than if everyone were together.

Dianna Booher, a globally recognized expert on business communication, says those new to working from home need to be acutely aware of how they present themselves and how they use their time. While taking a break to have lunch with the family is one thing, Booher warns against falling into the trap of taking extended breaks only to work into the night to catch-up.

"That’s a potentially troublesome habit to adopt if you’ll have to return to actual office hours after the crisis subsides," Booher cautions. "If you get into the habit of working sporadically over a 24-hour period, you may soon experience the feeling that your work has consumed your life. And it will."

Another hazard of remote work is the lack of interaction with co-workers that occurs naturally in a physical setting. Feelings of isolation can become common among those working from home, Booher says. To combat that, managers should encourage remote workers to chat as they do when together. Slack is a popular collaboration tool where channels can be created specifically to encourage conversation. Equally important is for managers to reach out to every employee regularly to ask how they are doing.

Video calls are booming, in large part because they help promote connectedness. They also make it possible for people to see presentations and share their work. At the same time, video conferences also make it possible for everyone to see your environment. Booher tells of a vidcaster who was to interview her changing his clothes while she watched. You might never do something like that, but what about the setting you're in? Does it look professional?

Zoom, one of the most popular video conferencing tools, allows for the use of a virtual background. You can upload a photograph of your own or choose one Zoom offers. You'll forego the personal feel, but that may be better than showing everyone you're working in a cluttered garage.

As Booher points out, maintaining a professional appearance and practicing the same good work habits you do in the office will avoid damage to your career and help you resume a normal routine when the crisis is over.

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