As the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic continues, it makes sense to take a moment to get familiar with recommended COVID-19 etiquette at work and in public. Some types of proper behavior might vary depending upon where you live and the current risk for infection, but there are some general rules that apply in most situations.
In this article, we will discuss how your small business and your employees should practice COVID-19 etiquette or “covidiquette” if they are in the workplace or out in public. The information we will share comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other respected sources. We recommend visiting the CDC website as well as the National Institutes of Health website for the latest virus-related recommendations and guidelines.
Practice Proper Mask Behavior
Since the virus is primarily transferred through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking, most experts recommend that people over age 2 should wear a mask in public to protect themselves and others from virus transmission. Health experts recommend wearing a mask made of cloth that is washable or a paper mask that should be discarded after each use. It is important to note that some people with specific medical conditions are not able to wear masks safely, but social distance can still be maintained by and from them.
Mask wearing is especially important indoors and in situations where individuals can’t socially distance the recommended minimum of six feet apart. Depending upon your personal risk and the infection rate where you live and work, experts also generally recommend wearing masks outdoors even if socially distanced. It is important to know the laws and regulations of your area or where you are visiting to make sure you are following the rules.
In the areas where there are recommendations but no regulations, COVID-19 etiquette becomes even more critical, as people are not breaking any laws or regulations when they don’t wear a mask. Organizations that may be in areas that don’t require masks indoors, however, can require that anyone entering their premises must be wearing a mask.
In the office, mask wearing is even more important because of the greater risk of transmission indoors. Your small business should clearly communicate to employees the importance of mask wearing as well as the other preventative measures described below. To avoid awkward situations between employees as well as visitors to your office, your organization should have plenty of extra masks and hand sanitizer available along with signs encouraging people to use them and to practice social distancing.
Follow Social Distancing And Hand Washing Recommendations
The CDC still recommends keeping a minimum of six feet of distance from strangers even when wearing a mask. In addition, they stress the importance of regular hand washing with soap and hot water for twenty seconds or the frequent use of hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. These effective preventative behaviors should be encouraged at work and home. It also makes sense to remind visitors to your office or home about these measures and to always have plenty of hand soap and hand sanitizer available for everyone’s use.
Utilize And Encourage Electronic Payment Options
Although the transmission risk from using currency is low, especially with frequent hand cleaning, it makes sense for companies to encourage cashless purchases and for people to avoid using cash when they can. Your small business should be well-prepared to do business online and accept credit cards as well as utilize methods such as Square, Apple Pay, Stripe, Venmo, and similar cashless solutions.
Limit Unnecessary Physical Exposure
The main ways to minimize physical contact in the workplace are for companies to offer remote work options and to limit indoor meetings and other group activities. Any employees not feeling well should be ordered to stay home. Workers that do come to the office should work on separate days and shifts. The office layout itself should ensure that employees are protected by distance and good ventilation as well as by protective workspace shields. Mask wearing should be required when employees leave their private work areas.
Outside of work, experts recommend that people should also continue to reduce or eliminate their travel and attendance at group events. Even though restrictions have eased in some areas, the public should remain cautious and not revert back to pre-pandemic behavior.
Make Use Of Safe Greetings
Even though everyone is missing hugs, handshakes, and high-fives, health experts still do not recommend greetings involving physical contact. Alternative greetings that fall under COVID-19 etiquette include warm smiles and head nods, waves of all varieties, and the use of friendly voice tones to full effect. Another popular greeting that shows respect and maintains distance is the Hindu bow where one holds both hands together in front of them while first looking directly at the person and then slowly bowing their head. Experts recommend that people continue to be creative in coming up with non-physical contact ways to greet colleagues, friends, and strangers.
Don’t Add To Tensions That Are Already Running High
One of the most important points to emphasize about COVID-19 etiquette is that people need to recognize that this pandemic has created an enormous amount of stress and unease for everyone, and there’s no reason to increase the aggravation of an already tense population. Every day we read depressing stories and see outrageous videos of people confronting one another about COVID-19 etiquette. Instead of gently reminding someone to put on their mask or to social distance, too many people are angrily ordering others to change their behavior or threatening them with calling the police or actual physical harm.
In situations where you encounter unsafe behavior or are uncertain about virus protection, experts recommend a softer touch and the use of “we” to show that you’re concerned for their safety as well. They recommend using an upbeat tone and avoiding critical comments. Some possible phrases to use include:
- “Excuse me, I think we’re supposed to have masks on in here. I’ve got an extra one if you need it.”
- “Sorry, I think we need to stand a little farther apart to stay safe.”
- “You go ahead, I’ll get the next elevator.”
- “I look forward to (shaking your hand, hugging you, seeing you in person) when this is all over.”
- “That sounds like a fun event. Thanks so much for the invite! How many people are coming, and will we have plenty of space to be safe?”
- “I’d love to meet with you over coffee if you don’t mind sitting outside.”
In a worst-case scenario, where tension has escalated dramatically, experts don’t recommend engaging with the person that is practicing unsafe behavior. Instead, they advise that you should simply leave the business or location for a time to defuse the situation or ask someone in management to talk to the offending party.
Employees should also always start with polite suggestions and calm messages with any colleagues not following safety protocols in the workplace. If this low-key approach is unsuccessful, it is important to get a manager involved as soon as possible.
In addition, it is advisable to always avoid getting into heated debates with employees, customers, and strangers, concerning the danger of COVID-19, proper safety behavior, and related topics.
Consult With An IT Support Partner
As a fellow small business, Network Depot can empathize with the struggles your organization has experienced during this pandemic. We have also had to dramatically alter the ways we do business to serve our customers effectively and keep them and our employees safe. As a result, as your trusted IT Support partner, we would be happy to work with you to give recommendations on following COVID-19 safety protocols along with helping your company implement tools and solutions to keep your operations running smoothly during this pandemic.