Post-Pandemic Office Etiquette

Co-workers in masks with laptops

Whether you’re an extrovert who’s been counting down the days until you can return to the office, or an introvert who is nervous about re-entering society, we’ve all gotten out of the 9-to-5 routine. What’s more, many behaviors that were once considered normal will no longer be accepted, and office manners will need to adapt. Wondering how you can be a better co-worker post-pandemic? Here are some suggested dos and don’ts for your return to the office.

Don’t Make it a Competition

Many of your co-workers will have struggled during the pandemic – whether it was due to a spouse losing a job, a family member falling ill, or homeschooling kids while working full-time. Resist the urge to turn these tales from the trenches into a competition of who had it worse. Conversely, it’s best not to brag if you faired particularly well during the lockdown. No one wants to hear about your lavish vacation, or the fact that you gave your kitchen a makeover and learned a new language, while they were facing life-changing challenges.   

Don’t Come to the Office with a Cold

Let’s face it, we’re all on high-alert when someone coughs or sneezes nearby, but it’s more than just paranoia. We’ve become much more educated on the high transmissibility of viruses and illness. Obviously a cold is not nearly as serious as COVID, but your co-workers don’t know what you have, and no one wants to be around someone who is sick. Now that we’ve discovered work from home is a viable alternative, there’s no excuse for subjecting others to your germs. If you’ve got a cold, do your co-workers a favor and just stay home.

Don’t Dress Too Casual

While many offices were business casual pre-pandemic, those limits were stretched over the past year, particularly below the waist and out of camera range. In fact, office attire got pretty lax while we were all working from home. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to carry on with two-day-old stubble or faded yoga pants when you return to the office. If the “Quarantine 15” has crept up on you, and your old wardrobe no longer fits, plan to do some shopping post-pandemic, and save your baseball caps, shorts and flip-flops for the weekend.

Be Clean & Hygienic

One thing we all learned during the pandemic is that we touch a lot of common surfaces in an office. While COVID appears to be in retreat, if we all continue to practice good hygiene, we just might find we get sick a lot less. Remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, and hold the door for colleagues to minimize the numbers of hands touching door handles. If you’ll be “hot-desking” or sharing your desk space with other co-workers on alternating days or shifts, clean up after yourself – don’t leave empty soda cans or food wrappers lying around – and wipe down your workspace with a disinfectant at the start and end of your day.  

Be Tolerant of Others

It’s important to remember that some co-workers may be reluctant to return to the office, or still be uneasy with a return to “normal”. Perhaps they have a vulnerable family member at home, or health concerns of their own. Respect their decision to still wear a mask, or continue working from home, and don’t automatically assume everyone is comfortable shaking hands, let alone hugging, when you see them again. Likewise, remember to give your co-workers space. We’ve all become accustomed to six feet of social distance, so think twice about squeezing into a full elevator or pulling up a chair so close that your arms and legs are almost touching.

Keep Your Voice Down

While working from home and spending much of your time on video calls, it’s quite possible you’ve subconsciously adopted a much louder speaking voice. In fact, research suggests that people speak as much as 15% louder. Part of it is logistics, we needed to speak louder so that the microphone could transmit our words, but it’s also a natural response when you are speaking to someone who is far away. When you return to the office, it may take a little time to find your normal conversation voice, so just be cognizant of your volume.

More Tips for the Post-Pandemic Office

Returning to the office after the pandemic will require a shift and manners and etiquette, but it’s absolutely achievable with a little forethought and awareness.

Not sure if working from home or going back to the office is right for you? Here are 5 things to consider. Alternatively, if you’re a business owner re-thinking your office space plan, you may want to check out these post-pandemic office space trends.