Category Archives: Coronavirus etiquette

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.

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.