7 Non-Obvious Covid-Era Etiquette Tips
Even though many of us have spent the last year far apart, this global Covid pandemic we're living through has raised its own set of social distance-related etiquette concerns. From the nuances of written correspondence to propriety around digital video communication, and even pet behaviour in public—changes in how we're used to interacting with other people have created new rules of engagement.
Besides the obvious guidelines—wear a mask; avoid shaking hands; stand over there; avoid gathering in groups; remember that not all disabilities are visible—we wanted to find out from etiquette experts what some non-obvious coronavirus-era etiquette rules they might recommend are.
"Ultimately, etiquette during Covid-19 isn’t just about being kind and respectful; it’s also about being considerate of other people’s health and safety by taking appropriate preventive steps," says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. "It’s important to not be hypercritical of others and yourself as we are all adapting to this new normal, especially since everyone has varying degrees of precautionary measures when it comes to their health and safety. In the end, the core values of etiquette which are kindness, respect, and courtesy will continue to ring true."
Here's what we learned from the pros.
How to gracefully turn down in-person invitations
"If your friends insist that they want to get together at a restaurant, let them know you still have anxiety or concerns about gathering in an enclosed space," Tsai says. "Furthermore, you should express your appreciation for their invitation and suggest they get together without you this time. Let them know that you’ll join them in the future when you feel more at ease about dining in a restaurant."
Text before making a video call
As video calls have increased in popularity during the pandemic, it's always important to consider the feelings of the person on the other end.
"Text someone and ask for permission before initiating a FaceTime or any other video call," says Tami Claytor, owner of Always Appropriate: Image & Etiquette Consulting. "In April 2020 my 82-year-old mother, who was in remission but battled cancer for 17 years, succumbed to Covid-19.
"A very dear friend who lives in Las Vegas would be so sweet and regularly check in on me. She loved calling me via FaceTime, which was awesome for creating a sense of close proximity because I live in New York City. However, the only problem was that she would call at random times-catching me without my hair and makeup done."
If you live in a part of the world where tipping is a normal part of the culture, now's the time to go all-out.
"During the pandemic, is the standard tip for a pick-up or delivery still 10 to 15 per cent? Nope, during the pandemic you should tip to the point of pain," says Jodi RR Smith, author and etiquette consultant. "Tip as much as possible, even if you are doing pick-up. The servers and the restaurants have been hit very hard. A few extra dollars from you can make a huge difference for them. When in doubt, tip more."
That goes for gifting, too
"If you have been invited to a lifecycle celebration, even over Zoom, should you still send a gift? Giving someone a token of your well wishes never had anything to do with the cost of the refreshments served at a gathering and everything to do with sharing a happy occasion," Smith says.
"Yes, still send a gift to acknowledge the engagement. Yes, still send a gift to the newly married couple. Yes, send a gift for the new baby. Yes, send a gift for the birthday. Yes, send a gift for the graduation. Really people. It is hard enough for these individuals to have to mark a momentous event in their lives during a pandemic, the least you can do it help them to make it as festive as possible."
Remember the niceties in written correspondence
"Email correspondence in the time of the pandemic rebirthed the use of remarks that indicate concern such as 'Hope you are doing well' and 'Stay safe'," says Naya Clinics founder Sam Nabil. "They used to just be the boring, overlooked, and mainstream forms of written greetings but they're now a requirement, whether in work emails or personal messaging.
"It's extremely crucial to open and/or end our written correspondences with these statements as they make surviving, working, and living through this horrible crisis a little lighter. They're the personal touch in our emails which serves as unspoken friendly reminders for others to take things easy, in case they're having a hard time, which softens any message and content. Practicing the habit of adding this in our emails is our way of putting a little extra effort into being considerate of other people's mental state and emotions during times like this."
Make way for frontline workers
"When we see uniformed essential personnel in the cashier or bathroom line, let them go first," Nabil says. "They're the heroes which made it possible for the rest of us to survive and for our communities to strive. We know they've been working endlessly, have put their health at risk, and sacrificed not being with their families while the rest of us are able to treat the lockdown as an opportunity to spend overdue time for family bonding.
"This little practice will not even cost us anything, but it will mean a lot to them as they'll have more time to recover their strength for another day of battling this pandemic. In return, their actions while on duty will take us one step further into beating this pandemic."
Don't forget your pet-iquette!
"Wash your hands before petting your pet or anyone else's," says Jenny Dean, founder of Floppycats. "Not only does your pet or your friend's pet have to lick off the nasty germs you put on their coat, but those nasty germs are easily transferred to another person—especially if they are going in face first for a kiss. And just the opposite for that matter; since Covid-19 spreads respiratory-wise, be conscious when you are kissing your pet, and who might be petting it later.
And remember to keep the peace: "Don't let your your dog bark incessantly in your backyard," she says. "Many of us are working from home and need peace and quiet during our Zoom calls. This is especially true when the weather is nice and windows are open."