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Office Etiquette for a COVID-19 World

Office-Etiquette

Everything has changed since COVID-19 and that includes office etiquette and behaviors related to the “office” whether it’s virtual or in-person.

Key Points
  • The old ways of work no longer work
  • Changes will affect all work areas
  • Office Etiquette isn’t just for the physical office

Work at Work

In the same way that airlines are changing the way they sell, with middle seats left open, there are changes in the world of office work in both physical locations of companies and their new remote locations. If office workers are back in the office building, things will have undoubtedly changed.

Temperatures are checked before workers can come in, proper social distancing changes how many people can ride in an elevator at the same time, and then again who can sit where in the office itself, depending on desk locations and cube walls, ventilation systems, and air flow.

Work at Home

Staying at home offers its own challenges, too. Setting aside a specific area for work only may mean kicking someone else out of their space, working around students attending school from home, or moving the dogs and cats out of their preferred area so that you can you can find a secluded area for yourself.

And the difference between “work” and “home” is slimmer than ever at the moment. Emails come in at all hours of the day and night, which means even if you’re not answering them, someone is still sending them. ANd if you’re the one sending them you’re probably working late.

The New Office Etiquette

So what does the elimination of boundaries between work and home mean? It means more than ever reestablishing boundaries are even more important. Have a chat with your employees and make certain they understand that there are working hours and off hours. Talk with your employer and find out what they expectations are. Most of the friction at office places can be avoided by managing expectations.

More workers than ever are working from home due to the coronavirus crisis. And the same way that customer behaviors have changed, employers have had to adapt. As more employees work from home, those that do return to the office are also requiring changes.

Workers with preexisting conditions may feel less safe in the office, and want to work from home indefinitely. Office etiquette will now require greater discretion as other workers cannot make assumptions about coworker’s health or lack thereof.

Health Basics in Office Etiquette

Wash your hands! Wash your hands for twenty seconds, minimum. Wash your hands and sing a little song and make sure you’re cleaning them for long enough. This is basic pandemic hygiene, but bears repeating.

Don’t shake hands. This is a time-worn practice but has basically been jettisoned. If you’re comfortable with a fist bump or elbow shake, that may be sufficient. Otherwise you can nod, make a bowing hand gesture, or just smile and do away with it entirely. On a zoom call you can wave, but this is sometimes awkward as well.

Cough or sneeze into your elbow if a handkerchief or tissue is not available. Be polite and ask about people and their families, but don’t assume every allergy attack is COVID=19. Be aware of the risks and actively work to minimize them.

Office Etiquette for the Home Revolution

For workers who have a large, beautiful, home office with plenty of natural light, and uninterrupted time, working from home can be a breeze. But the workers who are at their kitchen table, with an overhead light, kids hanging off them and a cat trying to sit on the keyboard, their life may not be as simple.

Don’t ask about the home office situations of your coworkers. It can cause envy, bad feelings, and jealousy. If someone’s pet shows up and it isn’t ok, you don’t necessarily need to mention it – they can tell it’s there. Let whomever is leading the meeting set the tone.

Respect daily limits. No one can work 24 hours a day, and let’s be real. No one should be expected to. Just because you’re on your phone all day and night doesn’t mean your employees are and it doesn’t mean that they should be. Be the boss who is respectful of your employees’ down time and off hours.

And if you’re an employee and not the boss, make sure you are respectful of yourself. Set what boundaries you need. Eliminate distractions wherever possible because you are at work. Respond to phone calls and emails, texts and IMs in a timely manner, and don’t be afraid to ask your boss what their requested time for responses is.

Working from home means the new office etiquette changes the existing rules. It’s important to treat everyone with the same respect you’d want, and more. Just because people are working from home and the office doesn’t mean we aren’t still all on one team.

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