27 September 2023

Risky behaviours to avoid when working remotely

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Rachel Pelta* lists 10 risky behaviours to avoid when working remotely.

When it comes to office life, there are all sorts of risky behaviours you know to avoid.

For example, you know it’s probably risky to look for another job while you’re on the clock, and you shouldn’t stream your favourite show during work hours.

And while those behaviours are a risk no matter where your work, working remotely doesn’t mean it’s easier to get away with certain risky behaviours.

In fact, working remotely sometimes means you need to be on your best behaviour.

  1. Insecure security

One overlooked, risky remote work behaviour is technological security.

While you might back up your hard drive and use two-factor authentication (2FA) to log into your accounts, what kind of risks are you taking with your employer’s digital information?

For example, do you use a VPN to connect to company systems or servers? Do you also use 2FA for those accounts? Can you identify a fake email or scam if it comes your way? What about a text on a personal device?

Risky behaviour comes in many forms, so give yourself a security audit to see if there are any changes you can make to reduce security risks.

  1. Thinking you’re off video or on mute

We don’t always agree with everything that’s said in a meeting, and that’s OK.

But it isn’t always OK to make that disagreement obvious.

At an in-person meeting, you’d likely never roll your eyes, shake your head, or even mouth a swear word.

But in a virtual meeting, you might think it’s OK because who’s going to know?

While you may have your virtual meeting software preferences set—let’s say you always enter a meeting on mute and with video off—are you sure they stay that way? Alternatively, let’s say you start a meeting with everything on, but when it’s time to go on mute, are you?

It’s easy to think you’re “safe” because you’ve set your preferences or are certain you turned things off.

But sometimes, things don’t go as planned, or you accidentally unmute yourself.

And since the control bar isn’t always visible during a meeting, you can’t be 100 per cent certain no one can see or hear you.

It’s better to always assume you’re “on” to keep you from saying things out loud that maybe shouldn’t be said.

  1. Side chit-chat

Along those same lines, another risky behaviour to avoid when working remotely is side chit-chat.

Most virtual meeting platforms have a chat function so you can ask questions or contribute to the discussion.

In many cases, you can limit who you send the question to.

This makes it very tempting to send a message to a colleague who shares your opinions.

However, it’s also very easy to accidentally send this chat to the wrong person or the entire group, and what you say may not be something you want everyone to know.

Likewise, you may think it’s better to use your phone to text a coworker.

Remember that if it’s a company-issued device, your employer can still see your texts, emails, voicemails, and so on.

If it’s your personal device, the employer likely can’t access those texts.

But if your video is on and you’re texting during a meeting, people may notice that you’re looking down or not engaging with the meeting.

  1. Gossiping

Gossiping is a risky behaviour no matter where you work.

However, when working remotely, gossip can happen unintentionally.

One of the drawbacks of remote work is that communication is more difficult.

While there are ways to improve your communication skills, it’s important to understand that a lack of in-person communication can impact how information is comprehended.

According to one researcher, listeners only pick up 7 per cent of a message from the actual message.

The remaining information comes from vocal (38 per cent) and nonverbal cues (55 per cent).

But remote teams don’t always get the same vocal and nonverbal cues, making it more likely that the listener may miss part of the message.

Because remote workers may miss a lot of nonverbal information, it’s critical to have all the facts before sharing what you think you know.

  1. Bringing your personal life to work

Working remotely often means working from home.

And working from home can mean we aren’t working alone.

Since you can never be positive you’re off mute or video, it’s essential to keep personal issues away from work.

That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your cat’s crazy antics or mention to coworkers that your partner is home that day.

But it does mean that you and your partner shouldn’t discuss who put the empty milk carton back in the fridge (again) during work hours.

Your personal life is just that—personal.

While you might have the type of relationship where you can discuss personal matters with your coworkers, having personal arguments during a meeting can cross a line, making others feel uncomfortable.

  1. Not keeping up appearances

Working remotely often means the dress code is “whatever makes you comfortable.” However, it is possible to take “come as you are” a little too far.

For example, you probably know that you should dress not only from the waist up but the waist down too.

You never know when you might have to stand up to grab something during a video meeting, and you want to be sure you’re wearing appropriate pants.

While you don’t have to spend a ton of time in front of the mirror every morning, how you present yourself to coworkers matters.

A little bit of facial stubble or skipping makeup is OK, but looking like you just rolled out of bed or were out all night might send the wrong message.

  1. Using the bathroom during a meeting

Sometimes nature calls at an inconvenient time.

It happens.

But what also sometimes happens is that people continue their virtual meetings while answering nature’s call!

It’s best to attend to those matters before a scheduled meeting.

But if it’s an unexpected chat that runs long, let people know you need to leave the call for a few minutes without explaining why, then leave the device in another room.

  1. Misusing flexible hours

Many employers don’t track their remote employees, trusting them to do their work and using their work product to measure success.

And of course, working remotely often comes with a measure of flexibility, allowing you to start your day early or take a long break in the afternoon.

However, it can be risky to spend less time working during the day than you should, even if you don’t mean to.

For example, you might feel a little under the weather one day.

But instead of calling off for a valid reason, you decide to lie down for a “quick” nap, which turns into a four-hour slumber.

Or, you decide to spend a few days rewatching all the Harry Potter movies, figuring you can get your work done “later.”

The problem with this is that while you may have a flexible schedule, you may find yourself doing less work than you should, or the work you turn in is shoddy.

If too many naps or too many movie marathons get in the way of your job, you may find yourself out of a job.

  1. Working two jobs at once

While it’s not unheard of for full-time employees to work a side job or on a passion project, these are often part-time or infrequent, meaning a few nights a week or only weekends.

If you are a full-time, remote employee, you are expected to work full-time hours and do a full-time job for your employer.

One interesting trend that’s gained steam during the pandemic is remote employees working two full-time jobs without telling their employers.

While it’s true that you’ll likely make a lot more money, the downsides (overlapping full-time responsibilities, conflicts of interests, tax issues) are probably not worth the risk.

  1. Not establishing boundaries

Finally, the most risky behaviour to avoid when working remotely is not setting boundaries.

One of the downsides of remote work—especially when you work from home—is that you live and work in the same location.

That means if you have a hard time clocking out at the end of the day, you may find yourself working more than you should.

Over time, this could cause a work-life imbalance.

Set and keep boundaries between work and personal time to help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.

If you don’t, you may find yourself working too much, which could lead to burnout and you searching for a new job.

Risks to avoid

Taking risks at work is sometimes the right thing to do, like volunteering to lead a project.

But as this list shows, there are certain risks that just aren’t worth taking.

They can cost you your reputation and possibly your job.

*Rachel Pelta is a Content Coordinator for FlexJobs.

This article first appeared at flexjobs.com

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