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Business Etiquette Is Changing in the Times of COVID-19

Business Etiquette Is Changing in the Times of COVID-19

As COVID-19 eases up, businesses are starting to reopen, and the economy is beginning to rapidly sputter to life. People are going out of their homes, relieved to be free from quarantine and ready to do what they need to do.

However, the Coronavirus is definitely still here. Until an effective vaccine or cure is developed, we have to co-exist with the coronavirus. This includes changing the way we do business to ensure everyone’s safety through simple but effective methods like physical distancing, wearing masks, using disinfectants, and frequently washing our hands.

Implementing a change in a business process is always a challenge and will initially feel awkward; such alterations may even face some resistance. But to minimize employees’ and customers’ exposure to the Coronavirus, such amendments need to take place and be followed diligently.

Business Etiquette during COVID-19

Doing business while the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing can definitely be done, but there will be noticeable changes that everyone should understand and be ready for. One of these changes will most likely revolve around business etiquette. It’s important to note that etiquette evolves and is not set in stone. Thus, you should be open-minded for new ways to express professional business etiquette.


The new Coronavirus can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces then touching your face. Thus, both visitors and employees will be required to disinfect their hands before entering the office. They may need to wash their hands with soap and water, or rub on disinfectant, which should be offered at the entrance of the facility. Using Lysol for Coronavirus prevention may also be the norm, and staff may be instructed to disinfect their workstations from time to time. Thus, colleagues and customers shouldn’t feel insulted when workers start wiping their workstations and equipment.

Face Masks

Going forward, both staff and customers may be required to wear face masks. Some businesses may even implement a “no mask, no entry” protocol. In addition, receptionists, front desk clerks, and guards may require you to write personal information – usually your phone or your phone number – on a form. This is used for contact tracing in case of COVID-19 contamination in the office.


Due to the potential transmission of the Coronavirus on skin, shaking hands as a formal business greeting may be discouraged. However, there exist other gestures of greeting. For example, the Japanese bow with respect. Another way is to place your right hand on the left side of your chest, smile, and bow slightly. Research other cultures; there are lots of ways people greet each other without touching each other.

Social Distancing

The World Health Organization (WHO) prescribes social distancing as an effective way to avert COVID-19 infection. Social distancing means physically staying around 6 feet away from another person. As social beings, people unconsciously or unintentionally come nearer to you. If this happens, you can politely remind the person to keep his or her distance, citing the social distancing rule. Alternatively, you can move a little further away while explaining that you’re trying to abide by the social distancing rule.
Appointments, Meetings and Company Events

One of the most effective ways of reducing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit the number of people in one place at any given time. Thus, impromptu visits will most likely be discouraged or even prohibited.

A business may require contractors, suppliers, and customers to set an appointment first. A company may reject a meeting simply because of scheduling, so a rejection or a rescheduling of an appointment should not be viewed negatively. It’s also a good idea to include company safety protocols to the would-be visitor when arranging meetings. This way, the visitor will know what to expect and can prepare himself or herself.

When communicating with customers, a business should start by stating their appreciation for the customer’s loyalty before enumerating the safety protocols in place. When setting physical meetings, it’s a good idea to email protocols, requirements, agendas, and issues to be discussed prior to the event. Not only will this information help the participants prepare for the meeting, but it will also conserve the time spent for that meeting. Because the meeting will be direct to the point, no one will stay longer than usual. This is quite important to reduce exposure to the Coronavirus.

When sending communications with colleagues, contractors, and customers, it’s a good thought to end your message with “take care” or “be safe.” We’re all in this together, and these salutations show that you care and sympathize with them.

Even in the era of COVID-19, businesses may hold events such as conferences, workshops, and parties. While a business may take great lengths in limiting participants, the likelihood of having a too-large turnout is unavoidable.

If you’re invited to a business event that you’re hesitant to go due to safety concerns, you can politely decline the invitation. You can say something like, “Thank you very much for the invitation. However, due to the threat of COVID-19, I feel I’m not ready to go just yet.”

Hopefully, COVID-19 will soon pass in the annals of world history and we’ll be back to our normal office routines. We will soon shake hands with business partners, have lunch together with colleagues, join workshops with other salesmen, or provide actual product demonstrations with clients. But until then, we need to live with the Coronavirus. It can be done by keeping an open mind and following company health protocols for everybody’s safety and well-being.

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by Lillian Connors // Lillian is a senior business consultant and the co-editor at She's mainly focused on business optimization and sustainable growth. In her leisure time, she likes to lose herself in a good book or drink a couple of hoppy pale ales.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.