Covid’s Lasting Impact on Professional Conduct

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This blog post on Covid’s lasting impact on professional conduct is written from the perspective of a business etiquette expert living in Savannah, Georgia, the Hostess City.

Whoever thought that six months after the coronavirus emerged in the US, we would still be suffering its effects in all aspects of our lives? Few of us believe that things will be the same as they were pre-pandemic. A question on the minds of many is what the long-term effects on our business and professional conduct will be.

Emerging from Corona

My home, Savannah, has long been noted for its charm and grace. Visitors to our city are wowed by our cordiality and friendliness. When we emerge from COVID-19, fearful of physical contact and personal interactions, will we still be able to display that Southern charm for which we are renowned? If we must hide behind masks and practice social distancing, can we maintain the hallmarks of our unique business environment and Southern hospitality? How will your city survive?

It can be done, but it will be different. The firm handshake that defines the business professional may become a faint memory. Hugs and kisses, also part of our business culture, may also fade away while we wait to learn that it is “safe to go back into the water.” Thank you, “Jaws” director Steven Spielberg.

Meeting and Greeting Post Pandemic

How will we meet and greet others from this point on? What will happen to the handshake?  If you are not comfortable shaking hands, decide now how you will handle that. Be ready to say, “Please excuse me for not shaking your hand, but I am not comfortable doing that yet.” Nothing else needs to be said.

I am not a fan of fist or elbow bumps in the business environment. They are too close for comfort and not worthy of a polished professional.

Wining and Dining

Wining, dining and conducting business over meals, a critical part of relationship building, will not be the same. Until we feel confident that the virus is not a threat to our collective health, something as simple as sharing a cup of coffee may be complicated.

When you consider where to meet for your business meal, you will want to check with the restaurant about their safety precautions. Make sure that they are following the recommended guidelines so you can concentrate on the business at hand and not worry about the environment.

Smiling through Your Face Mask

Face masks will be part of daily business attire, making it challenging to exhibit charm and friendliness, but it can be done. Although people cannot see your smile through your mask, they can hear it in your tone of voice and see it through your eye contact. It has never been so much what you say as the way you say it that counts.

Professional Conduct Will Survive

For the foreseeable future, there is little doubt that it will be necessary to follow the safety guidelines currently in place. Life will be different, and it will take some getting used to. Old habits may have to be broken, but courtesy and kindness (aka professional conduct) do not have to fall victim to the coronavirus. Whatever needs to be done to protect ourselves and others going forward can be done with the same grace and charm that Savannahians have always shown in their personal and professional lives.

Expressing Condolences during the Coronavirus Pandemic

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To even suggest that these are difficult times is a classic understatement. We all know and feel the challenges and pain of Covid-19. In one way or another, each of us has been affected. We are all mourning and searching for ways of expressing condolences.  We have lost family members, close friends, colleagues, coworkers or acquaintances. If we have not personally suffered the pain of loss, we know someone who has.

Helping those who are mourning has become complicated since we cannot gather to say goodbye, we cannot embrace the bereaved family and we cannot come together as a community to celebrate and remember a life well-lived. All that being said, I do not mean to imply that there is nothing you can do to reach out to people who are grieving. There are numerous ways of expressing condolences and showing that you care.

Attend the funeral or memorial service.

If the service is conducted in a place, such as a graveside, where you can social distance and wear a mask, by all means, go. Even if you cannot speak to the family, you can sign the guest book so they will know that you were with them.

Pick up the phone and call.

During this time of isolation, a phone call and the sound of another human voice may be just what the grieving person needs. If they do not feel like talking, they can decline your call. They will know and appreciate your effort. If you connect, do not attempt to be a grief counselor. Your job is to ask how they are feeling and listen to what they have to say.

Food is always appreciated.

There may not be the usual large family crowds around, but someone is going to need to eat. If you find out that enough food is already being provided, wait a week before offering to take a meal. It may be needed more later. For fear of spreading the virus and to practice social distancing, advise the family that you are coming. Call when you arrive and leave your nourishing gift at the door.

With today’s technology, there is no excuse for remaining silent.

While I am not a fan of using the Internet to send condolences, it is better than nothing at all. In spite of my aversion to emailing, texting, or using forms of social media to convey your sympathy, there are those for whom it is their preferred means of communication.  Options for expressing your condolences online include 1) writing a message in a guestbook published on the funeral home’s website, 2) sending a sympathetic email, 3) texting your acknowledgment—although that should be the channel of last resort. Online communication platforms are endless.

If you are a loyal subscriber to this blog, it will come as no surprise that when you cannot do it in person, my preferred manner of conveying sympathy is the time-honored handwritten note.

Nothing trumps that. If you want your kindness to make a lasting impression and offer the most solace, find your note or correspondence cards, your nicest fountain pen, your forever stamps and share your thoughts on paper with the one who is grieving. Those who have suffered a loss often save those notes for a long time and bring them out at anniversary dates and other times of remembrance.

During this time of Covid-19, people who are mourning need support more than ever.

They are often alone having to quarantine. They need love and support. Whatever you decide to do, do it immediately and make a promise to yourself that you will not let it end there. Go beyond keeping these people in your thoughts—keep them in your actions. Continue to stay in touch and do the little things that can mean so much.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your associates add the polish that builds profits through these tough times.

Etiquette Dilemmas Created by Coronavirus

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We are now in the sixth month of the Corona Pandemic and etiquette dilemmas abound. People have begun to venture out into the world while others are still sheltering at home. Businesses are slowly and with a tinge of trepidation beginning to reopen. Some organizations have found they can operate efficiently with their employees working from home. Safety, health and welfare remain top of mind.

The world we are coming back to is far different and more socially confusing than the one we lived in pre-pandemic. It is fraught with awkward moments and challenging situations. If you were uncertain of how to conduct yourself in business and daily life five months ago, you are finding this period even more perplexing.

Everything has changed–from how we meet and greet others to how we interact with our colleagues. We are used to handshakes and hugs. No more of those. We are accustomed to sitting down at work to discuss an issue with a coworker. Forget that. We don’t go to meetings anymore—they come to us. If you are late for an appointment, you can’t blame getting stuck in traffic unless you tripped over your kids’ toys trying to get to your desk. You used to know what to wear to work. Now that you are at home, how should you dress for that Zoom meeting?

When we go out into the world, we wear a face mask. When we encounter another person, we sometimes have trouble deciding “who is that masked man?” It’s hard to understand what people are saying when masks muffle the sound. To me, the most troubling thing is figuring out if that person is smiling or not. And are you sure that you are six feet apart?

Restaurants are now allowing in-house dining. When local laws mandate that we wear face masks in public, how does that work in a dining situation? You can’t eat with a mask on so now what?

There are clear answers to most of those questions.

About the handshake: The easiest way to deal with that is to simply say to the person you are greeting, “Please excuse me for not shaking your hand, but I am not comfortable doing that during this time.” Some people are doing the elbow bump, but it is usually done more in fun and in casual settings. It is definitely not a formal business greeting. Only time will tell whether the handshake will survive.

When you can’t sit down with your coworker in person, there are options. The old-fashioned phone comes to mind. If you prefer to see that person, arrange for a Zoom session, Facetime or one of the other communication platforms. Be kind and don’t surprise your colleague with Facetime if they were not expecting you. You wouldn’t go to their house without alerting them that you were coming. Same thing with video calls.

What’s the answer to what to wear for a Zoom meeting? Unless you are meeting with a high-level executive, there is no need for formal business attire. A clean pressed shirt or a nice blouse will do. Some people are now claiming to have a “Zoom shirt” or “Zoom blouse”. It hangs over the back of their chair or on a hook behind the door. It goes on when the call comes in and off when the call is over. If you are still wearing your pajama bottoms, don’t stand up during the call.

As for those face masks at a restaurant, you need to wear one into the restaurant and while waiting for your table. Wear it when you sit down and while ordering. Only remove it when your food or beverage arrives. Common sense would say that you put your mask back on as you exit.

Little remains the same as it was pre-pandemic. Be patient and be considerate. Keep in mind that others are probably just as confused as you are. As we hear so often “We are all in this together.”

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com.

Pandemic Grocery Store Etiquette

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Coronavirus has done it again. It has altered another aspect of our lives and caused us to rethink one more behavior—the way we grocery shop. The result is a new set of etiquette rules. When I began writing this column 25 years ago, it never occurred to me that grocery store etiquette would become a topic. But here I am writing to remind people how to conduct themselves while shopping for their daily bread.

During this pandemic, grocery stores have implemented new policies and procedures to protect their customers and employees. They are trying to ensure that everyone is following the recommended guidelines to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. For their part, stores have provided hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. They have posted signs and make periodic announcements reminding customers to social distance. They have marked their floors at checkout points to indicate where customers should stand. Others have gone a step further and redesigned their floor plan to create one-way traffic so customers do not find themselves passing too close to each other.

With stores doing their part, it’s time for the shopping public to do theirs. Most people are following the rules. As always there are exceptions. Those few are making it risky for others.

There are etiquette rules that everyone needs to follow in order not to be the jerk at the supermarket. Etiquette means exhibiting a strong moral code of conduct as well as being respectful and courteous towards others. As we struggle to get through this difficult time, you can do your part by paying attention to your pandemic grocery store etiquette.

Wear a mask. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s fast becoming a fashion accessory. Who would have thought? You might as well invest in more than one mask as this pandemic is most likely to be with us for a while. Why not have a little fun with it? As a reminder: you wear a mask to protect others, not yourself. Let’s all put one on.

Follow the signs. Pay attention to where you should stand. There may be places other than checkout lines where you need to keep physical distance. Respect those one-way paths.

Minimize your shopping trips. Although our governor has lifted the stay-at-home order for all but special cases, limit your visits. By doing so you can cut down on the chances of spreading the virus. Your pocketbook will thank you. You’ll plan more thoughtfully and learn to shop for only what you need.

Don’t be a hoarder. I will never look at a roll of toilet paper the same way again. It will forever be a reminder of Covid-19. Granted, some items are still scarce. Most stores have set limits on those high-demand items. Take only what you need. Leave some for other people. There will always be food on the shelves. And yes, toilet paper.

Watch where you put your hands. Some experts warn that the virus can live on certain surfaces for some time. Others disagree. Why take a chance? We know so little about this disease. Make it a habit to touch only what you plan to buy. It’s not necessary to handle five tomatoes before you settle on the one you want.

Properly dispose of gloves and wipes. The ground outside the store is not the place to toss them. Someone has to clean up after you. If you can’t find a trash can, take items home to discard them.

Shop mindfully. You may think you are invincible, but not everyone is. We continually hear that we are all in this together. Think of others; not just yourself.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits through tough times.

Flag Etiquette

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As we approach the Fourth of July, what better to time to review our flag etiquette? For those who have served or are serving in our military, flag etiquette is second nature. For the rest of us, the do’s and don’ts are not so well-known. If you are among those eager to fly “Old Glory” on July 4th, no doubt you want to do it correctly and avoid anything that is disrespectful of our stars and stripes.

The American Legion established the standards of flag etiquette under what is known as the United States Flag Code. Compliance is not mandatory. It is voluntary and strongly suggested. I have chosen to offer the best practices for respectfully caring for and displaying your flag.

Displaying the Flag.

The flag is displayed from sunrise to sunset on buildings and outdoor flagstaffs. It may only be displayed 24 hours a day if it is illuminated during the hours of darkness. If you are flying the flag on the front of your house, you need not run out and purchase a spotlight. Just leave your porch light on.

Pay attention to the position of the union—the blue background with white stars, symbolizing the union of the states. The union should be at the peak of the staff when projecting horizontally, at an angle from a windowsill or the front of a building. When displayed against a wall or in a window, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s right—that would be to the observer’s left.

The flag should not be flown in inclement weather unless you have an all-weather flag, one made of nylon, polyester or other treated material.

The flag is never displayed with the union down except as a signal of extreme distress meaning danger to life or property.

Respecting the Flag

Flags should not be displayed over any part of a vehicle, train or boat unless they are affixed to a staff.

Neither the flag nor any part of it should be used for apparel, bedding, drapery, or as part of a costume or uniform. The exception is using it as a flag patch on the uniform of military personnel, firemen and policemen.

No items that are intended for temporary use should be decorated with the flag. That means that the flag should not be embroidered, embossed or printed on cushions (please, don’t sit on the flag), napkins, boxes, bags or anything else that will be discarded.

Disposing of the Flag

Torn or tattered flags are not appropriate for display and ought to be destroyed respectfully. According to the code of respect, this should be done by burning. Organizations such as the American Legion, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts regularly retire flags. There is no need to start your own bonfire.

The flag as wearing apparel

The line in the flag code that causes the greatest confusion is the one that states that the flag should not be used for apparel. That begs the question “Is it permissible to wear an item of clothing that looks like the United States flag?” The answer from the American Legion is “Unless an article of clothing is made from an actual United States flag, there is NO breach of flag etiquette whatsoever. People are simply expressing their patriotism and love of country by wearing an article of clothing that happens to be red, white, and blue with stars and stripes. There is nothing illegal about the wearing or use of these items.”

For those of you who may be celebrating the 4th of July by wearing your red, white and blue face mask to honor our country and respect the health of your fellow citizens, have at it. It’s acceptable.

Coronavirus Etiquette at the Grocery Store

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Coronavirus has done it again. It has altered another aspect of our lives and caused us to rethink one more behavior—the way we grocery shop. The result is a new set of what I deem Coronavirus etiquette rules. When I began writing this column 25 years ago, it never occurred to me that grocery store etiquette would become a topic. But here I am writing to remind people how to conduct themselves while shopping for their daily bread.

During this pandemic, grocery stores have implemented new policies and procedures to protect their customers and employees. They are trying to ensure that everyone is following the recommended guidelines to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. For their part, stores have provided hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. They have posted signs and make periodic announcements reminding customers to social distance. They have marked their floors at checkout points to indicate where customers should stand. Others have gone a step further and redesigned their floor plan to create one-way traffic so customers do not find themselves passing too close to each other.

With stores doing their part, it’s time for the shopping public to do theirs. Most people are following the rules. As always there are exceptions. Those few are making it risky for others.

There are etiquette rules that everyone needs to follow in order not to be the jerk at the supermarket. Etiquette means exhibiting a strong moral code of conduct as well as being respectful and courteous towards others. As we struggle to get through this difficult time, you can do your part.

Wear a mask. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s fast becoming a fashion accessory. Who would have thought? You might as well invest in more than one mask as this pandemic is most likely to be with us for a while. Why not have a little fun with it? As a reminder: you wear a mask to protect others, not yourself. Let’s all put one on.

Follow the signs. Pay attention to where you should stand. There may be places other than checkout lines where you need to keep physical distance. Respect those one-way paths.

Minimize your shopping trips. Although our governor has lifted the stay-at-home order for all but special cases, limit your visits. By doing so you can cut down on the chances of spreading the virus. Your pocketbook will thank you. You’ll plan more thoughtfully and learn to shop for only what you need.

Don’t be a hoarder. I will never look at a roll of toilet paper the same way again. It will forever be a reminder of Covid-19. Granted, some items are still scarce. Most stores have set limits on those high-demand items. Take only what you need. Leave some for other people. There will always be food on the shelves. And yes, toilet paper.

Watch where you put your hands. Some experts warn that the virus can live on certain surfaces for some time. Others disagree. Why take a chance? We know so little about this disease. Make it a habit to touch only what you plan to buy. It’s not necessary to handle five tomatoes before you settle on the one you want.

Properly dispose of gloves and wipes. The ground outside the store is not the place to toss them. Someone has to clean up after you. If you can’t find a trash can, take items home to discard them.

Shop mindfully. You may think you are invincible, but not everyone is. We continually hear that we are all in this together. Think of others; not just yourself.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. She has traveled across the US and as far away as India and Dubai. Now she can now come to you virtually to offer her wisdom. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits, especially during tough times

Etiquette And Coronavirus

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We are now almost three months into the Coronavirus, at least from the standpoint of sheltering at home and enduring quarantine. It was on or about March 13th that we first learned  we had to avoid contact with other human beings as much as possible. It’s been a long three months. If you’re on vacation three months pass quickly. When you are stuck in isolation, it’s  painfully long.

We have somehow managed. We have binged on Netflix; accepted old tee-shirts and sweat pants, even pajamas, as work attire; have started cocktail hour earlier with each passing day; have begun to look like the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” from spending too many hours bent over our computers and laptops; gotten more than our money’s worth from our tablets and smartphones. We’ve mastered technological challenges like Zoom and Facebook Live–tools we had never even heard of before.

Unfortunately, we have become cranky and feel quite comfortable acting like total jerks in public. We have no problem calling out people when they violate our space or when they fail to wear a face mask while we are struggling not to suffocate behind ours. It’s time to talk about things we can all do to survive the 2020 pandemic with a bit more grace and courtesy. It’s time to talk about etiquette amid Coronavirus.

Choose your words carefully. If you are doing your part to practice social distancing, communication is key and can serve as a reminder to others. When someone is too close for comfort, try saying, “Sorry, I’m just trying to keep distance” as you move away. A friend had an all-too-close encounter with a man in a grocery store. When she reminded him of the six-feet rule, he screamed an obscenity and informed her that she couldn’t tell him what to do. Words are critical particularly when you are wearing a face mask. Others cannot see your facial expression. They only have your tone of voice to go by. In this case, I don’t think an extra coating of sugar would have made any difference.

Greeting people. Greetings and interactions look different now. It’s oh-so-hard not to reach out a hand or offer a hug when seeing friends. We miss touching. Given that the majority of people know that these behaviors are off-limits, long explanations are not necessary. When someone comes toward you with arms outstretched, it’s easy enough to say, “I am so happy to see you but afraid of getting too close.”

Honor differences. In many areas restrictions are being lifted. Some people feel they can move about and interact freely. Others are still being cautious. Don’t be judgmental. No matter which side of the issue you fall on, give others the benefit of the doubt. You have no idea what their situation might be nor do they know anything about yours. If you are ready to break out of quarantine, proceed with consideration for others. You can follow your own instincts as long as they don’t endanger someone else. Your right to behave as you wish ends when it infringes on another person’s rights. I think that’s third-grade civics.

Wearing face masks. This has become a hot button everywhere. You only have to read or watch the news to learn about the extreme behavior of those people who have a “You can’t make me” attitude. No, it’s not a law; it’s a request. It’s a request made by many business owners who want all their customers and employees to feel safe. I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys wearing a face mask, but we do it. We do it to protect other people.  I am neither a doctor nor a scientist nor do I claim to be a health expert. I rely on the people who hold those titles. The majority of them are telling us to wear protective gear to slow the spread of Covid-19. Keep in mind that you don’t wear a face mask to protect yourself. You do it to protect others. It’s an unselfish act done out of courtesy and respect for others.

Let’s be kinder gentler people during this challenging time.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. While she has traveled across the US and as far away as India and Dubai, she can now come to you virtually to offer her wisdom. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits, especially during tough times.

The Etiquette of Virtual Meetings

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We’re living in a new reality where “business as usual” means gathering remotely in virtual meetings. Companies, large and small, need to maintain clear, concise communication with employees regardless of physical location. As long as “shelter-in-place”, or as we Southerners say “hunker-down” rules continue, business professionals have to adjust to what has become known as the “new abnormal”. Although physical offices will likely always exist, the future of work is flexible and that means being equipped to manage employee interaction with a dispersed workforce. Now, more than ever, is the time to be communicating with your employees frequently, ensuring they are safe, secure, and productive amidst the chaos. It means an explosion of virtual meetings.

What has become of all those meetings we used to attend? They still exist, but we no longer have to leave home or the office to be present. Meetings are coming to us. They are invading our homes and what we have up till now taken for granted was our safe space. Physical communication has become virtual communication. Whether companies are using Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx or some other platform, these new technologies are the norm. As always, we get the technology first along with its accompanying tutorials and instructions for how to use it before we learn the etiquette rules that apply.

What is the etiquette for virtual meetings?

How are we supposed to behave in this new environment? There is an upside and a downside to our ability to hold meetings with anybody, anytime, anyplace. The positive aspect is that we no longer have to factor in travel time to get to meetings. Wherever you are, you are there. The negative aspect is wherever you are, you are there. No escaping, no excuses. Here a few issues that you need to consider when preparing for or attending a virtual meeting.

Be aware of your surroundings

Your home office could be anywhere in your home since you may not have had a dedicated office space before this pandemic. If you are set up in your bedroom, make up your bed and pick up your clothes before you get online. As your mother would say, “Clean up your room.” The same applies if you have an office space all to yourself in the house. Keep it neat at least as far as what your webcam allows others can see.

Dress appropriately.

Having the freedom to dress more comfortably at home does not mean showing up in your pj’s. You are at work; you just happen to be at home. You need to present a professional appearance. And that means head to toe in case you need to move around during the session.

Establish rules for your household while you are attending a virtual meeting.

 If you have the luxury to close off your office, that’s all the better. However, not everyone does. Maintain as much control as you can over your environment. That includes family, friends and pets. Consider posting a notice on your door that says “Do not disturb. Meeting in progress.” Okay, the dog probably can’t read.

Mute your microphone when you are not speaking.

 Unless you live alone, your house may be noisy. Try not to allow your noises to be a distraction to others in the meeting.

Be aware that you are always “on” during these virtual sessions.

Think “Candid Camera” if you can recall that old TV show. People can see your every move and facial expression. Some of those online may be paying more attention to your body language than you think.

As a friend of mine pointed out recently, we may be in danger of being “Zoomed-out”. Could it be time to rethink how much added pressure we are putting on ourselves and others with our virtual meetings?

Contact Lydia to schedule a virtual training session.  All of her presentations are available as live or recorded webinars. Learn how she can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits through tough times. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com

 

 

 

Will the Handshake Fall Victim to Corona?

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The handshake, as we know it now, is in danger of becoming extinct, much to the delight of some and to the chagrin of others. During this crisis in addition to practicing social distance, washing our hands constantly, not touching our face, we have been advised not to shake hands. Eventually, we will be able to gather with others socially and professionally. When we do, we may remember to wash our hands frequently. We may think twice before touching our face. But what will become of the handshake? If Dr. Fauci of the Corona Taskforce has his way, the handshake will be history. I have the utmost respect for Dr. Fauci.

I am not disagreeing with Dr. Fauci. I am wondering just how this will work. After all, we have been shaking hands for centuries. Mo Rocca of CBS interviewed an anthropologist who stated that the handshake dates back 60 million years. He said it is “a very primal sort of connection, very emotional.” He pointed out that chimpanzees and gorillas long for tactile contact and do much the same thing as humans. We all like that physical connection.

Throughout history the handshake has been a sign of peace and respect. We shake hands with our right hand. Some say that has its origins in medieval times. Knights used the right hand because that was the one that drew the sword. Engaged in a handshake, the knight was not able to draw his sword and strike.

Today we extend a handshake in both social and business situations. We offer our hand when we meet people, when we leave people, when we thank someone, congratulate someone or offer an apology. If that age-old practice goes away, what will we do? While there are options, one thing is for sure, there will be many awkward moments.

Before you head out into the world of the “new normal’, decide how you want to deal with the issue and plan what you will say. If you choose to remain a fan of the handshake, don’t assume other people are. You might approach by asking people how they feel about shaking your hand. If they don’t want to engage, assure them that you understand. If you are anti-handshaking, say so right away. You might say, “Please forgive me for not shaking your hand, but in light of all we’ve been through, I am not comfortable doing so.”

Some people are turning to the East for guidance and choosing the Indian greeting Namaste. You bring both hands together and center them in front of your chest. Then make a small motion to bow while saying Namaste. In the Japanese tradition, the bow is another choice for staying germ-free.

One more greeting is simply holding up an open hand to others. That signals that you are not going to shake hands. It is generally readily understood. Just make sure your open hand doesn’t come across as “Whoa, back off.”

In case you end up shaking someone’s hand because it’s such an ingrained habit, pause before dousing yourself in hand sanitizer.

I have omitted the fist bump and elbow bump from my list of professional greetings. Need I say more?

Good manners and etiquette are about making people feel comfortable. Keep that in mind when you decide how to deal with shaking hands in a world that the Corona virus has changed forever.

Working Remotely: It’s Not Business As Usual

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Are you working remotely? Do I even need to say Corona virus for you to know where I am going?  In the last two weeks, our lives have changed drastically. It’s not business as usual. Social distancing has become business distancing. Vast numbers of people are working from home during this crisis. Employers are not just asking their people to work from home, they are mandating it.

So how do you handle working from home? Maybe it’s what you thought you always wanted. Now that you can, what do you do? It may be a bit more challenging than you realized.

As someone who has worked from home for 25 years, I have some suggestions for how to maintain your productivity and professionalism from your newly-created home work place.

Designate a specific space for your office. For some that maybe easier said than done. You may have to operate from a shared space. Not everyone has a spare room waiting to be used.  You may need to share your office with a spouse or partner who is also working remotely. The arrangement may not be ideal. Your new office could be your kitchen table. Share that with the whole family.

Set ground rules for others in the house. Just because you are at home doesn’t make you fair game whenever a family member wants to interrupt you.

Create a routine for starting your day. Model it after your previous schedule when you got up, dressed, and left for work. I call this “Let’s pretend.” Let’s pretend you are going to your away-from-home office.

Get dressed for work. Yes, dress for work. Get out of those pj’s. That will help get you in the right mindset. Additionally, you’ll be ready to present a professional image when you receive an unexpected video call.

Schedule your breaks and honor that time. You would be taking breaks in a traditional setting and not thinking much about your water-cooler time. You need to step away from your desk from time to time to refresh.

Don’t be hard on yourself. Take advantage of the perks. It’s okay to put in a load of wash or tend to other at-home duties. Cut yourself some slack.

Stay off social media during your business hours. Turn off everything that might be a distraction. Ouch!

Declare your WFH (work from home) hours. People need to know when you are available. Consider publishing your work hours online and putting them your voice mail greeting. That way people won’t assume that you are goofing off when they can’t reach you.

Establish an end of day routine.  Review the day, create a work plan for the following day, shut down your computer and leave the office.

These are just a few suggestions for working effectively from home. Most are good old common sense. Your organization probably didn’t have a playbook in place for this situation so everyone is working it out either alone or together. The goal is to stay focused, productive and professional while not being hard on yourself and your family—and that includes the dog.