office etiquette

The new rules of office etiquette

Post-lockdown, the office is no longer the bustling building you once knew. Here’s how to navigate the new work normal.

It’s finally time to pull off that pullover and pull on a shirt and tie. Offices are opening and, for many, returning to their abandoned desks (and the inevitably dead spider plant you left on it) is imminent. We’ve already covered the new rules of public transport but what about once you get to the office itself? For most there will be new procedures in place so, first things first, the one-way system is not optional and neither is social distancing – do your bit to protect everyone. However, when it comes to the more nuanced aspects of office life, we know you might need a few pointers. Here’s our guide to the new rules of office etiquette…

It’s time for a new routine

hand sanitiser

If your pre-Covid routine was anything like ours, you’d get to the office in the morning, drop your stuff at your desk and head straight to the kitchen to make yourself a coffee. Well, no longer gents. If you commute via public transport and have just stepped off a bus, train or tube your first point of call is now a hand sanitising station or bathroom to wash your hands. We also recommend your keep your face mask on until you reach your desk and, if there are already two people in the lift, you’re waiting for the next one. Or take the stairs – we could all do with the extra exercise post-lockdown anyway.

Be courteous in the kitchen


Hygiene taken care of, now you can get down to the serious business of making that coffee. Depending on the size of your office, there will likely be rules about the number of people allowed in communal kitchen areas at one time. Don’t be the guy who ‘jokingly’ brushes them off and barges his way in while Sarah from HR is innocently trying to make her breakfast. No one likes that guy.

This also isn’t the time to be cracking out that drip filter coffee machine that takes 25 minutes to make one cup. Yes, we know the aroma is superb and the taste more intense, but you’re not the only one who needs their morning caffeine fix. Making a cafetière is just about passable (as long as you take it back to your desk to brew) but if you simply can’t bear anything but the finest beans, buy your coffee on the way in.

And, while we’re on the subject, under no circumstances are dirty plates, mugs or bowls to be left lying around. It wasn’t nice before and it’s downright dangerous now.

Shake up your handshake


While it’s still a good idea to keep meetings to a minimum, for most companies they are an inevitable fact necessary to keep the lights on. But, whether internal or external, the handshake is no longer the greeting de rigeuer. We’ve broken down all the popular alternatives here – we’re quite partial to the prayer hands ourselves – but, whatever you do, don’t put your client in the awkward position of having to refuse an outstretched hand (or, worse, accept it and then worry about catching coronavirus for the entire meeting). This is not the way to get a deal done.

Become the office social secretary


Remember the heady days when you could pop down the pub for a cheeky pint at 4.30pm on a Friday? Well, we’re sad to say those days are long gone. Unless your local has exceptionally lax regulations (in which case you probably shouldn’t be going there anyway), trips to a bar, pub or restaurant are now subject to advance booking – and that early evening Friday slot is a coveted one.

This, however, is your chance to become everyone’s favourite colleague. Take on the role of office social secretary and, not only will you be credited with providing everyone with a chance to catch up, they’ll also be thankful they didn’t have to do the admin themselves. Plus, you get to pick the venue so you’ll never end up in that dodgy boozer Keith from IT is always dragging everyone to. Our advice: act early. Get the ball rolling with a group email on Wednesday to make sure you get the best spot. Oh, and remember, tables are limited to six so choose your companions wisely.

Here’s how to date and social distance…

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