The New Rules of Office Etiquette

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on just about every aspect of work life, not the least of which is office etiquette. From the demise of formal dress codes to the avoidance of the common handshake, the way we behave at work has changed profoundly, likely for good or a very long time.

Whether working in the office or at home or some hybrid of both, every worker must be aware of the new rules of office etiquette.

In-office Etiquette  

  • Learn about new dress codes. During the initial stage of the pandemic, exercise or casual attire never before seen in most workplaces was suddenly acceptable. However, that may not be the case when you’re back in the office. Savvy employees will learn what management expects its workforce to wear and will adjust their wardrobes appropriately.
  • Respect the organization’s COVID-19 guidelines. Masks, social distancing, handwashing—whatever rules the employer sets, stick to them. Your job may hinge upon your obeying these guidelines, whatever personal beliefs you hold.
  • Do not automatically shake hands. Before assuming everyone wants to shake hands, say, It’s great to see you. Are we shaking hands? If someone moves in to shake and you are not ready to do so, say apologetically that you’re still uncomfortable shaking hands or offer an elbow bump.
  • Stay home when ill. If you don’t feel well, stay home. No one ever appreciates catching a cold or the flu—or COVID-19.
  • Clean up after yourself. Respect the workplace by cleaning up after yourself in communal areas. It’s no one’s job to do your dishes or dispose of your moldy food in the group refrigerator.
  • Be considerate. When working in a communal workspace, avoid offending or annoying colleagues. Wearing heavy perfume or cologne–which can trigger headaches in some people– eating food with strong odors, and speaking loudly can irk coworkers.

Remote Work Etiquette

  • Log in on time. Being punctual is still part of good office etiquette, even when working from home. Set and stick to your working hours.
  • Be punctual for conference or video calls. Late arrivals to meetings or calls show disrespect for others’ time and a lack of professionalism.
  • Tidy your work area. Make sure to have a neat workspace and background for video calls. (You can use background images Zoom and other platforms offer, but using a natural-looking environment works best.)
  • Present yourself professionally. Work in an area separate from domestic activities. Occasional and unintentional interruptions may be unavoidable, but if they continue, you will be viewed as unprofessional.

Observing etiquette shows maturity and demonstrates professionalism. Keeping up with the changes to workplace etiquette brought on by the pandemic is a must.


  1. If your company requires masks at the office and you see someone not wearing or using a mask correctly, what should you do?
  2. How might clothing choices—athletic wear, rumpled shirts, unkempt appearance—impact how others perceive you?
  3. How can you warmly greet someone and still observe social distancing?




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