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Post-COVID Office Etiquette You Need To Know

Gabrielle Olya
·4 min read
Woman with smart watch in medical mask at office stock photo
Woman with smart watch in medical mask at office stock photo

We all know that how you conduct yourself in an office should be different than when you are at home or among friends and family, but the coronavirus pandemic has made things a bit more complicated. Gone are the days when chatting closely around the water cooler or high-fiving someone in the hallway is considered the norm — anyone working in an office now has to be mindful of social distancing and limiting contact to keep themselves and their co-workers safe.

If you’ll be returning to the office soon and are not sure what behaviors are OK and what habits are better left in pre-pandemic times, keep these new COVID-safe office etiquette rules in mind.

Colleagues in the office practicing alternative greeting to avoid handshakes during COVID-19 pandemic.
Colleagues in the office practicing alternative greeting to avoid handshakes during COVID-19 pandemic.

Avoid Shaking Hands

Rachel R. Wagner, a licensed corporate etiquette consultant, said that handshakes are now off-limits.

“In the interim, you can acknowledge the other person with a smile along with a slight up-and-down head nod and good eye contact,” she said. “If the handshake happens accidentally (and it will!), just keep hands away from the face until you can wash them. Thinking about using the elbow bump? Probably not a good idea; you never know if the person recently sneezed or coughed into their elbow.”

face masks.
face masks.

Wear a Face Mask

Wearing a face mask when you’ll be around other colleagues is one of the most courteous things you can do to protect yourself and others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face coverings as a way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus via respiratory droplets.

Woman's hand holding the elevator door.
Woman's hand holding the elevator door.

Respect Elevator Guidelines

Even if you’re late to work, don’t squeeze yourself into an elevator if there are already a few people inside. You may make other riders uncomfortable if it gets too crowded to stay distanced.

“If building management posts signs with suggested social distancing capacity, such as two to three persons, respect their guidelines,” said Wagner. “When waiting to enter, stand to the side and allow a six-foot clearance for those exiting before you enter.”

Woman using a microwave in the office.
Woman using a microwave in the office.

Keep Your Distance From Others in the Breakroom — and Clean Up After Yourself

Be mindful of maintaining social distance when in office common areas.

“In the office breakroom, stay socially distanced from others when getting coffee or using the microwave,” Wagner said. “Use sanitizer wipes to disinfect controls on the coffee brewer, microwave, refrigerator and faucet handles after each use.”

African businesswoman eating sushi at her desk in the office.
African businesswoman eating sushi at her desk in the office.

Don't Sit Directly Across From Others at Lunch

“Employees will have to change their lunch break habits because eating requires taking masks off,” said Joe Wilson, senior career advisor at MintResume. “They can’t be at the table across from each other because it makes them more susceptible to catching the virus. It is of great importance to control the crowd in common areas, such as cafeterias.”

laptop notepad and coffee mug on desk
laptop notepad and coffee mug on desk

Bring Your Own Dishes and Mugs

Don’t rely on company-provided kitchen supplies when you return to the office.

“Companies will encourage employees to bring their own dishes and coffee mugs from home instead of using communal items to further ensure everyone stays healthy,” said Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com.

Read More: Should You Ask For a Raise During the Pandemic? Here’s What Experts Say

boss answering phone call with mask and gloves in office with protective mask and gloves holding mobile phone.
boss answering phone call with mask and gloves in office with protective mask and gloves holding mobile phone.

Don't 'Pop By' a Co-Worker's Office or Desk

Randomly stopping at a co-worker’s desk or office to chat used to be completely acceptable behavior, but now you should make an effort to limit face-to-face interactions.

“You don’t always need to meet with a person face-to-face,” said Kristen Leong, human resource generalist at M&O Marketing in Southfield, Michigan. “Instead, you can call their desk phone or use an internal instant messaging system.”

labor day school supplies
labor day school supplies

Don't Ask To Borrow a Pen

Borrowing a co-worker’s pen, stapler or phone was previously no big deal, but now that kind of ask can potentially make your colleague uncomfortable — and potentially spread disease. According to the CDC, employees should “avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.”

Cropped shot of a young man suffering with flu while sitting wrapped in a blanket on the sofa at home.
Cropped shot of a young man suffering with flu while sitting wrapped in a blanket on the sofa at home.

Don’t Come In if You’re Sick

Previously, you might have felt uncomfortable asking for a sick day, but now it’s imperative to take time off if you have any symptoms of the coronavirus.

More From GOBankingRates

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Post-COVID Office Etiquette You Need To Know