As the world starts to open back up again, more and more people are returning to their place of work after being furloughed or working from home. While some will be craving a kind of normality, others will be anxious about returning to a space they don’t have full control over.
That’s where post-COVID-19 office etiquette comes into play. It’s up to everyone in the office – even those who feel more comfortable – to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible.
Follow the rules
There’s a reason the phrase ‘the new normal’ is being bandied about so much. A lot of rules and procedures have suddenly been put into place. Whether it’s keeping two metres or wearing a mask, there will be different rules for different places, but it’s important that you follow whatever is in place. For the protection of yourself and of others. Remember that everyone is just trying to get back to some resemblance of normal, there’s just a few new changes happening.
Look after yourself
On top of whatever guidelines are in place, you might want to take extra precautions to protect yourself. While masks may not be mandatory in offices, you may want to wear one in addition to social distancing and handwashing measures. You may also want to wear gloves or have your own cleaning supplies from home, or even your own cutlery and plates. Whatever helps you feel more comfortable about returning to your place of work. Make sure you speak to your manager if something is troubling you or there is something you want to do personally.
Look after your space
While we know that we can pick up COVID-19 from surfaces, we don’t know for certain how long the virus lives outside the body on those surfaces. Still, it’s better safe than sorry. Chances are your place of work has implemented a ‘keep your station clean’ policy in addition to regular professional cleanings.
Ensure that each desk has its own cleaning supplies, including sprays, kitchen towel or cloths, and anti-bacterial wipes. Everyone should be wiping down their desk and equipment at the start of the day when they get in, and before they leave the office at the end of their day, along with any cleanings they feel necessary throughout.
If each person is responsible for their own space, the task of cleaning becomes less overwhelming and much easier to do.
Clean up after yourself
In every office and workspace there will be communal areas used by multiple people and/or businesses. This is an area that might be a source of anxiety for a lot of people; while we can control our own actions, communal areas mean we are relying on the sensibility of others. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done other than making the rules as clear as possible, and make sure that you’re following them to a tee.
If you use the kitchen, wipe down the surface that you use and touch before and after. This could include cupboard doors, taps, microwave buttons and light switches. All it needs is a spray and cloth or an anti-bac wipe and you’ve done your bit to protect yourself and others in seconds.
Someone else’s ‘new normal’ might not be yours. A person in your office may come in every day wearing a mask and gloves with enough hand sanitiser to open a shop, but that’s up to them. If these are the measures that they need to follow in order to feel safe, then that is their business. If there’s anything that the post-COVID-19 office should be – in addition to clean – it’s judgement-free.
We’re all just trying to find our way in this strange new world, and people will feel more comfortable than others. This includes socialising, too. While you may be desperate to have a team meal and a drink, someone may not be comfortable with the idea of going to a crowded restaurant just yet. As the phrase goes, you do you.
This time is bound to be tricky, but if everyone looks after themselves and tries to be a little more mindful of others, we can all make offices a little bit safer. Just remember to follow the guidelines, keep your two metres from others and don’t break personal boundaries. Oh, and wash your hands.