Don’t Shake Hands & Wear Pants: COVID-19 Business Etiquette

Business etiquette, like all social norms, is always shifting and changing.  Keeping up with what is appropriate and the things to avoid can sometimes be tricky, especially for the business veteran who is used to doing things in a certain way, or the young worker on her very first contract who may have a completely different idea of what is considered acceptable. Using common sense and following a few general guidelines will be enough to get you started.

Research into the culture of the company or business you’ll be working or interviewing for will go a long way toward giving you an advantage to set the correct tone right from the very beginning. One thing that hasn’t changed is the old adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.


Ah the art of dressing appropriately. I am an avid believer in self-expression and the right to express ourselves in a way that aligns us with our inner self. However, there’s nothing worse than standing out for all the wrong reasons. Every look has a professional and appropriate version. Regardless of where on the scale the dress etiquette falls make sure you make it a priority to take pride in your appearance. Pre-COVID a shower would also fall under this category of pride. 2021, a strong note on the utility of dry shampoo will suffice.

Be authentic. People are intuitive creatures and we can sense when someone is being disingenuous. Make eye contact and listen with the intent of actually hearing.

PRE-COVID- standard advice – stand tall and shake hands firmly (somewhere between bone crushing & your hand barely brushing against your hand-shakee’s) when introducing yourself or being introduced regardless of the person’s gender. NOW- for goodness sake do not shake anyone’s hand. It is a sign of disrespect for the wellbeing of your professional counterpart. Zoom? Watch your lighting. No one wants to talk to someone in a questionably dark room and do not be that guy who forgot he forgot to wear pants.

Part of relatability is keeping your eyes on your co-workers and not your cell phone. Also, avoid getting drawn into gossip and be mindful of the type of personal details you share at work.

Be the problem solver not the whiner. Whether it be online or in person, focus on fostering teamwork, finding solutions to problems when they arise and wearing pants. Positivity and creativity are closely linked and re-framing problems as challenges helps you avoid falling into the trap of complaining. Take initiative; not only does it feel empowering it’s a great way to get noticed in a positive way.

PS. Look into Modern Etiquette for a Better Life. It’s a short but epic read.

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