Etiquette in Coronavirus Times

Etiquette is about knowing how to behave correctly in any given situation. But how does this change when something unknown, such as a potential pandemic, comes along? We take a look which etiquette points we should adjust for now and which ones need to stay the same during this outbreak of the Coronavirus. 

ADJUST  Your Etiquette On These Points

Greeting Etiquette

If you are welcoming home friends and family who are arriving off a cruise ship or have recently arrived back from an international trip, you may want to skip your usual double cheek kiss. Air-kissing and a hug are perfectly acceptable alternatives. Just make sure your verbal greeting is as enthusiastic as usual to compensate. 

There have been concerns by some that handshakes in international business meetings can be risky at this time. While the risk of passing on any form of flu or viruses via a handshake is low, it is essential to respect other people’s concerns. In this case, you could consider opting for a high-five or a fist bump to reduce the touching time. Or, just agree not to shake hands for the time being. Most importantly, don’t be offended if you find a handshake is avoided. Everyone is reacting to this outbreak in different ways. 

Information Sharing About The Coronavirus

Be overly vigilant not to engage in gossip, conspiracy theories or questionable information sharing about the Coronavirus outbreak. The internet is buzzing with sensationalist and alarming content about this virus. This creates a digital pandemic or (mis)infodemic and only heightens public anxiety around this disease with devastating consequences for affected communities and fueling anti-Chinese sentiments. If you are unsure about some information, check on Government sites, WHO, CDC or other official health websites for the most up to date and correct information. 

Daily Schedule Changes

The uncertainty around international responses to the Coronavirus outbreak requires a little more flexibility than usual. As international travel and supply lines become more affected, you may need to reschedule meetings or make adjustments to lead times on projects. Be flexible and accept that this situation can have unexpected impacts on our daily lives. 

Accept a Level of Uncertainty  

Be flexible in this fluid situation. Over the coming weeks and months, the information and advice about how to deal with the Coronavirus will change. Likewise, Government responses will change. Keep up to date with the latest news, follow the official advice, and help others to do the same. Don’t waste your energy getting upset if official information or policies change from one day to the next. 

Send a Personal Note to International Business Connections

It is perfectly acceptable to send a short personal email or message to friends, family or business connections living in the affected areas. Likely they are bored and/or worried about the current situation. A kind word of support can be a welcome surprise for them in this troubling time.

Etiquette That Doesn’t Change 

Hygiene Practises

Common hygiene etiquette will always remain the same. Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. As long as we are all adults and are following normal hygienic practises of washing our hands and sneezing into our elbows, there is no need to go overboard with the sanitiser or by burning our banknotes. 

Common Flu Etiquette

If you are feeling unwell, or have flu-like symptoms, take the usual precautions and stay home while sick. No one is going to wish you were in the office sneezing around everyone. 

Show Understanding

Everyone reacts to risks and fears a little differently. Be understanding if someone in your office or family is feeling worried or anxious about things. Listen to their concerns and help them find information that may help allay their fears. 

Stay polite or don’t respond at all. 

We can get overly concerned when someone is sharing incorrect information online. As always, think before responding negatively to comments online. Reacting with anger or outrage is counterproductive. Instead, consider a polite response using official information and links to refute the false information. Hopefully, this will encourage others to seek out the correct information too.  Read more about this in our post The Online Hate Culture and How to Stay Out of It.

Civil Etiquette

Even in times of extreme unease, discrimination is not acceptable. We cannot let the fear of the unknown take over or give oxygen to racism or discrimination of any kind. We are all in this together. And it is together that we will get through it. 

Help Out

Donate to organisations on the ground who are coping with the full extent of this outbreak. Many great organisations are providing shelter, masks and medical supplies to the most affected areas. 

Show your smile. 

Unless your government has mandated it, there is no need to wear a mask at this current time. Leave the masks for the medical practitioners and for people who are sick. Instead, make the most of being able to show your smile to everyone you meet. 

Finally, remember to always show kindness, tolerance and understanding in your daily interactions; these basic etiquette rules will never change. 

Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water – it will make ripples throughout the entire pond

– Jessy& Bryan Matteo