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Post-COVID workplace etiquette

The Gainesville Sun logo The Gainesville Sun 5/24/2021 Eva Del Rio

Q: Before COVID, you had written several columns about workplace etiquette. I was wondering how you think those norms will change now that we are all returning back to the workplace.

A: Unlike in your personal life where you can simply choose to socialize and visit with those you know are vaccinated — or have good reason not to be — once you enter the workplace you will be in unknown territory. Unless your employer requires all employees and customers to be vaccinated, — which is very rare — you will be interacting with coworkers and customers who may or may not be vaccinated.

Therefore, the assumption should continue to be that — unless you know you are among only vaccinated people — precautions are in order. So, what will that look like in the workplace? While this is constantly evolving, I would follow this general advice:

Shaking hands

Don’t offer to shake hands if you are introduced. Simply say “It’s nice to meet you” with a smile and a nod of the head while keeping your hands by your side. If someone offers their hand to you, it’s okay to say “It’s so nice to meet you, but I’m not shaking hands yet,” implying that someday you will. Note: elbow bumping, while it was novel at the beginning, is unnecessary and now comes across as gimmicky, so skip it.


At work, don’t even think about it. If offered a hug, use the same formula as before: smile and say “Great to see you again but I'm not hugging yet.”

Physical distances

What we used to consider “personal space” at work has now grown by one or two feet. Although keeping “6-foot social distance” will no longer be practical, possible or necessary, I’d give those around me plenty of room to maneuver. If you are a loud talker, be self-aware and maybe take a step back.

Know the mask rules for your location and follow them

Rules might change from one room or one location to the next. Conference rooms, elevators, break rooms, open workspaces, outdoor areas, could all have different mask requirements. Learn and follow the rules. Remember, etiquette is not so much about rules, it’s about being considerate and thoughtful of others. This means, always carry a mask with you just in case.  And never make fun of someone for wearing a mask, or taking a precaution.

Lastly and most important: Be kind and be patient. 

We are making it up as we go along, we have all been through a lot, and we really don’t know what others have experienced. Kindness and patience are at the heart of good etiquette. Follow your instincts and you’ll be fine.

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This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Post-COVID workplace etiquette


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