More than ever, working from home is the new reality, with an increasing number of professionals now conducting business conversations online. This means significant changes in the way we communicate with colleagues. It also means that some of the messaging platforms associated with informal banter have entered the business realm, requiring a new appraisal of our communication habits.
Luckily, a little education in messaging etiquette can minimize the risk of striking the wrong chord with business colleagues. That risk is real: According to a 2019 study from Messenger from Facebook, with whom I’ve partnered with recently on digital communication etiquette, 75% of respondents said they expected some degree of digital etiquette when using messaging platforms.
The survey defined etiquette as “a customary code of polite behavior.” With Messenger’s research in mind, here are five helpful tips for navigating these unspoken codes in the “WFH” context.
- The Need for Speed. It’s typical for colleagues to want to know if their messages have been received. According to the Messenger study, 60% of Americans check to see if their latest chat has been read as they await response. If you’re wrapped up in other work, send a quick reply acknowledging that you’ve seen the message and will respond in full later. If you find constant notifications to be distracting you at home, let your team know you’ll be heads down on another assignment, or consider “muting” the chat.
- Avoid Multi-Messaging. If you don’t get a prompt response, sending a flurry of follow-ups isn’t likely to help. No one likes to return to a heap of new messages, and in fact 37% of global respondents deemed it bad etiquette to over-reply. Rather than making it overwhelming and time-consuming for a colleague to pick up the thread, use fewer (and shorter) messages and save more of those thoughts for an actual back-and-forth.
- Short and Sweet: Another key to efficiency (and professionalism) in work messaging is keeping things concise. This is all the more crucial when in a chat or email chain that involves a large group of co-workers. Of course, sometimes you really do have a lot to say. In that case, suggest a 1:1 or Group Voice or Video Call on Messenger, both of which allow you to add up to 8 people.
- (Spell)Check yourself: Showing that you care about the details will help to make a good impression on your colleagues. It demonstrates that you respect their time and intelligence, which is surely one reason 38% of Americans surveyed agreed that poorly written replies leave a bad impression. So take that extra moment to read what you’re about to spend, especially for any embarrassing grammar or spelling errors.
- Know your audience: Being too casual in chat rooms can be a slippery slope, often causing conversations to go off-track and into subject areas that aren’t appropriate for the workplace. Be aware of who is in your group chat before sending a message–and remember that anyone who is added to the chat later on will be able to read it. Unlike those additions, what flies off your keypad is something you can control.