5 New Etiquette Rules for the New Normal

From the onset of the global health crisis that was the COVID-19 pandemic, people have had to make a number of changes to the way they interact with each other and their environment to keep themselves and others safe.

Now, more than a year later, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of the global population has finally adjusted to what has been dubbed “the new normal.”

However, just because restrictions have been eased and life around the world seems to be going back to the way things were doesn’t mean that they actually are. Due to the unpredictable nature of the virus, it’s safe to say that the adjustments that people have made will likely need to be continued for the foreseeable future. New societal norms have arisen in response to current realities.

Here are a few of them.


New Mask Wearing Guidelines

While the practice of mask wearing has been somewhat relaxed these days, there are still guidelines in place to ensure the safety of both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals as prescribed by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many places in the United States, like California, have adopted these guidelines and have advised their residents to follow mask wearing practices whenever possible.

The recent guidelines no longer require those who have been fully vaccinated to wear masks. However, there are still certain scenarios and places where mask wearing is required. These include:

  • When entering healthcare facilities
  • When using public transportation such as trains, buses, taxis, ride sharing vehicles, and airplanes
  • When staying in transportation hubs like airports, train stations, or bus terminals
  • When staying indoors at schools and other youth settings
  • When visiting local or state correctional facilities

The CDC still recommends that all unvaccinated individuals continue to wear masks in public settings, especially when indoors with other people. This is to avoid the possible spread of the virus, as well as prevent the risk of infection.

Even vaccinated people visiting establishments such as restaurants, movie theaters, or retail stores are still highly encouraged to wear masks if it helps them feel safe. Choosing an antimicrobial face mask to wear should help.

In addition to performing all of the functions of a regular face covering, an antibacterial mask  prevents harmful bacteria and viruses from thriving on the surface of fabric.


Contactless Greetings

Since the pandemic hit, people have been a lot more wary of making physical contact with others.

This makes sense because the virus typically spreads through infected respiratory droplets or aerosol particles that come in direct contact with a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Due to this, forms of greeting that involve physical touch such as handshakes, hugs, and kisses, have been discouraged.

In their place, alternative—if unconventional—greetings have become more popular. To conform to new social distancing norms, people have begun to use the elbow bump to greet friends and family members when meeting up. However, this still does require you to get in proximity to another person.

If being less than six feet away from someone makes you feel unsafe, Myka Meier, author of Business Etiquette Made Easy, suggests adopting other kinds of contactless greetings. She introduced the “grasp and greet” and the “stop, drop, and nod”.

The former involves clasping both hands and putting them over your heart, while the latter requires you to give a small, polite nod while keeping both hands behind your back as you greet a person. Both methods should allow you to keep yourself at a comfortable distance from others while still being able to greet them politely.


Accepting and Declining Invitations

After more than a year of being cooped up indoors, a lot of people are excited to get back out in the world and see their loved ones again.

However, in light of recent events such as the emergence of new coronavirus variants and positive cases still being high in some areas, you would perfectly be within your rights if you declined certain invitations.

For large-scale events like weddings where an RSVP is required, typical social norms requiring you to attend may be excused in light of the pandemic. Instead of attending, you may instead send your host a gift to express your regrets for missing it.

Remember: your safety and well-being take precedence during these times. That being said, it’s always a good idea to have some pre-composed responses for declining invitations to mass gatherings.

Saying things like: “Thanks for the invitation, but I don’t feel ready just yet” is polite yet still socially acceptable.


House Rules for Invited Guests

Given the new level of health standards everyone has to practice these days, it wouldn’t be unheard of to ask your guests to follow a few simple house rules whenever they visit your home.

For example, you may ask visitors to remove their shoes before entering your home to minimize the chances of them tracking viruses and bacteria in. You can also give them hand sanitizers to use before letting them handle anything. Both are sensible house rules that shouldn’t be hard for anyone to follow.


Etiquette for Virtual Communications

At the height of the pandemic, many offices were forced to close, prompting the biggest shift to work-from-home that the world has ever seen. One year later, offices may be reopening, but remote work is here to stay.

However, a lot of employees still have trouble grasping the correct ways to conduct themselves over video conferences.

To avoid the all-too-common phenomenon of people speaking over one another, it’s best to ask everyone to mute their mics while one person is speaking. And while a lot of people might prefer to keep their screens dark during a group call, this can be viewed as rude. Allow other participants to pick up on visual cues by keeping your camera on like everyone else during meetings.

Adjusting to the new normal likely won’t be easy, and these new social norms can feel like an additional burden. However, they are worth keeping in mind so that we can all continue to live in a safer, healthier world.