Roy Gilbert

Commentary: COVID-19 outbreak reveals poor etiquette in working from home

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(Photo: Unsplash/Ali Yahya) LONDON: Silicon Valley has been entranced by the idea of “remote working” for decades.

For all the billions that Apple, Google, Facebook and their start-up imitators have spent on elaborate headquarters, many software engineers would be happy to swap their starchitect-designed offices for a decent pair of noise-cancelling headphones and work from anywhere.

So while few would be quite so crass as to admit it, China’s coronavirus-enforced lockdowns make for a fascinating case study of remote working on a massive scale.

Millions have had to work from home for weeks, prompting a spike in second-hand laptop and tablet sales in China and driving Alibaba’s collaboration app DingTalk to the top of the Chinese App Store charts.

WE HAVE THE TOOLS BUT DONN’T KNOW HOW TO USE

The good news: Much of the tech that underpins remote working, such as the video-conferencing service Zoom and the chat app Slack, is finally mature and reliable.

The bad news: Not much of it comes with a proper user’s manual.That has left millions to figure out for themselves how to make sure their Slack joke isn’t taken seriously (emoji are your friend) or whether it is acceptable to have laundry visible in the background of a video call with colleagues (it’s not).Speaking to seasoned remote workers in both big companies and start-ups, working successfully in a “distributed team” seems to come down as much to etiquette as tech. (Photo: Annie Spratt / Unsplash) Step one is to remember where people are. Patrick McKenzie, a […]

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