Most offices have that guy. The coworker who talks too loudly, doesn’t respect anyone’s time, or steals lunches from the communal fridge. This guy (or gal) seems to ignore or misunderstand the basic rules of office etiquette that everyone else follows. The only thing worse than knowing that guy, is realizing that you are him.

During a pandemic the rules change. Following health and safety guidelines does more than help you stay healthy. It also shows coworkers that you respect them. Avoid becoming the coworker your office mates love to hate by following these basic rules of office etiquette for pandemic times. 

1. Wear the mask

Extensive research shows that masks help slow the spread of disease. Your coworkers know it. When you choose not to wear a mask you’re showing them you don’t care about their health. It signals a lack of respect for the people around you. So follow CDC guidelines by wearing a mask that completely covers your mouth and nose. It should fit snugly against the sides of your face without any gaps. Keep it on anytime you’re in communal spaces like hallways, conference rooms, bathrooms and other people’s offices.

2. Keep your distance

No one likes a close talker. That distaste is heightened during a pandemic. Even with a mask on, you should still try to maintain six feet of distance between you and your coworkers. No one wants to have to tell you to step back. So be aware of how close you’re standing and make adjustments as necessary. Whenever possible, offer a remote option for conversations so coworkers can set their own boundaries for what makes them feel safe. Rather than popping into someone’s office, send them a message or pick up the phone. 

3. Wash your hands

Washing your hands is a good idea whether there’s a pandemic or not, but now is the time to make an extra effort. Wash or sanitize your hands before reaching for the coffee pot, opening the refrigerator door, or passing papers around the table. 

4. Minimize visitors

Family members, friends, and even clients shouldn’t be invited into your place of business without a good reason. Not only do many areas have limits on how many people can gather inside a building, but it also creates more opportunities for contagion to spread. Even if your office has always been welcoming, think twice before bringing in anyone non-essential. 

5. Be compassionate

Even if your coworkers seem happy and healthy, you have no idea what they’re dealing with outside of work. They may be coordinating childcare and homeschooling, worrying about high-risk family members, or facing financial challenges. Try to be patient with people if they seem more distracted or less efficient than usual. 

For more on protecting yourself and your coworkers during the pandemic, read our post on how to create a new healthy office routine