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What are the back-to-office etiquette rules?

The Globe and Mail | Alex Cyr | Aug 20, 2021

Office etiquette covid culture - What are the back-to-office etiquette rules?

Dan Poliwoda got a glimpse of office life when he was hired as a summer law student at Dickinson Wright LLP’s Toronto location in 2019. Back then, he wore a suit to work every day, spent lunches and the occasional happy hour with colleagues, and tried to make a good impression by spending long hours at his desk.

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But now, as he prepares to start at the firm as a litigation lawyer next month, he is not sure how he will dress, or how much time he should spend at the office, or even whether it will be acceptable to invite co-workers to lunch.

“Etiquette can sound like something that is stagnant, but in essence it’s a snapshot of what a group decides is mutually agreeable,” she said. “It evolves. Postpandemic, safety and security at work will be top of mind.”

When many of the 3.1 million Canadians who switched to remote work last year return to the office, they may struggle to figure out what now counts as acceptable behaviour. They will need to contend with varying levels of personal comfort with in-person activities among co-workers, changing office policies, and a lack of non-verbal cues from mask-shrouded faces.

How often should I come in to work?

Data from Statistics Canada collected during the pandemic challenge the value of spending long days and late nights at the office. Only 3 per cent of respondents reported being less productive since starting to work from home, as opposed to 32 per cent who found themselves to be more productive. Eighty per cent of new remote workers in the country indicated they want to work at least half their hours from home after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

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Ms. Blais-Comeau said employers will have to do more than simply allow employees to work from home – they will also have to breed a type of workplace culture that encourages them to do so.

“It’s much more about the outcomes you’re delivering as opposed to the hours or time you spend sitting in a seat.”

Talking about COVID:  It’s probably best not to ask your co-workers if they’re vaccinated, unless they’re your friends.  “Ask yourself: Is it that you are concerned for them, for yourself, or just curiosity?” she said. “If you are concerned, volunteer the information and observe their body language and see if it says something.”

The Handshake:  Don’t go for it, at least for now.

The Coffee Chat:  Keep having them, but offer options based on comfort level.

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Meetings:  Should I make a point of attending all meetings in person, if I have that option?  Ms. Austin is expecting her workplace to offer a mixture of in-person and virtual meetings by the fall. She said she likes the hybrid model, because office meetings are better for critical planning, whereas virtual meetings remove any feeling of “us versus them” between local workers and colleagues in other cities.

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