Ambiguity in the Virtual Office

It is now my second week with Staycity Aparthotels finance team, and it seems I have already settled in with my colleagues. This week’s topic ambiguity in the workplace is something that comes up quite a lot in my day.  

First, I have flexible hours with the team, however, my typical day lasts from 8am to 1pm EST. I know I can always start at 8am but I am often left in the dark about when to log off. Most of the team logs off at 12pm EST (5pm IRE) while I stay and complete my work with any of the other members who stick around for the extra hour. Sometimes it is just me for that hour and everyone else has already said their goodbyes for the day. I can continue to work as I am given tasks that do not require direct supervision from a colleague, but I feel conflicted about simply leaving at my scheduled time. This is especially when my supervisor is still logged on but has not yet told me I can go. My solution to this is to simply ask for last minute tasks at 12pm and send a message in teams at 1pm that I will be going and wish everyone a good evening. I learned it is okay to simply log off even without a reply. This may be a cultural difference or a part of the virtual workplace. It is quite the adjustment for me who came from a job where even if I was over my time, it was still polite to get permission from my boss to leave.  

I have come to realize in my two weeks at Staycity that there are some unspoken parts of working with a virtual team. For example, sending gifs in the chat is appropriate and encouraged to gauge the severity of the conversation, otherwise, you could come across as rude or cold. Alan, who works with me often, told me that people have said to him that he seems rude in emails. His solution is to use emojis when appropriate to lighten his tone, or he has another person review his writing. This is something I have never genuinely thought about as I am so used to understanding an in-person situation using body language and tone of voice. Working in a virtual environment has made me aware of how important tone is in communications. The team has adapted to the ambiguity of other’s attitudes in online interactions using gifs and emoji icons. They also have taught me that it is important to pay attention to the wording as the physical aspects of conversation are missing leading to an ambiguous meaning behind virtual communications.  

Another instance of ambiguity is deadlines. I am not given any specific deadlines as to when I must complete my tasks. I am not quite sure I like this yet as I never know what to prioritize or how long a task should take me to finish. So far, I have seemingly impressed the team with how quickly I turn in my work. I am learning that, at least for Staycity, if no one tells you when to complete a task it’s not a priority and that if something is urgent you will know. For example, reviewing statements is generally not a priority, but organizing a CER summary is generally meant to be completed that day. However, I do not wish to let my work pile up and I have resolved to do each task in the order they are given to me (unless otherwise stated) and strive to complete them all within that workday. The hard part is not staying later to finish, as another thing I learned is that the team gives me some tasks which are meant to take me until the next workday to finish. This way they have time to prepare something else for me to do.  

While the workplace can have some ambiguous parts to it, my colleagues do well to train me and ensure that I understand what I am being asked to do. Mostly, training consists of the team showing me an example and then turning it over for me to try. I have already been posting invoices to our system using my supervisor’s computer through teams. He can watch what I am doing and correct me when I need help. It’s slow, but helpful in ensuring that I am doing my job correctly. It had been great so far working at Staycity and I am curious to see what I learn in the next few weeks. Bye for now!