May 25, 2021
By Kiran Sidhu
While we avoided in-person meetings to keep safe and healthy during the pandemic, video calls have done a fine job of keeping us as connected as possible. We can’t say, however, that we don’t miss the ease and flow of face-to-face business meetings. Non-verbal cues and facial expressions can be picked up through video calls, but the reality is virtual meetings can get choppy and constrains rapport-building.
There is real value in showing up for business meetings and it can go a long way in building trust and relationships. The entire experience from first impressions, choice of location and attention to other details give participants a way to showcase their care and commitment. It comes as no surprise that 60% of business travellers say that major deals and decisions cannot be made virtually.
Thankfully, with Covid-19 vaccinations underway, business meetings are becoming a possibility again with some careful considerations. In order to keep your employees and clients safe during the pandemic, we have compiled the following Covid-19 meeting etiquette which covers handshake protocol and meeting setups. The key to resuming normalcy is to be cautious and manage risks until we reach an uptick in public confidence.
A firm handshake has always been the go-to way to greet business partners and start a meeting on the right foot. But handshakes are more than just a greeting. It is an expression of energy, enthusiasm and confidence that can covertly influence business decisions. Despite its significance in business settings, it is safest to do away with handshakes for the time-being.
The pandemic has made many of us hyper-aware of hygiene and 78% are reluctant to shake hands in a meeting now. It makes perfect sense to continue taking precautions so everyone is comfortable. A great way to avoid awkward no-handshake moments is to notify participants ahead of time, perhaps through a meeting email invite.
Find an alternative to handshakes that works best for your company and encourage everyone to adopt it. Have fun with it and very soon, it may just become a defining feature at your workplace!
In order to maintain social distance during business meetings, proper planning is required for spacious meeting areas to minimise health risks. Meeting guidelines advise for a 1.5 metre (or 6 feet) distance between seats with clear visual markers for participants to be mindful of.
If you’re planning a business meeting, one good way to keep up social distance would be to alternate participants with empty seats. Ideally, a meeting room should only be filled up to 50% of its original capacity. This may be a good time to be creative with your meeting spaces. After more than a year of being indoors, a nicely-lit and well ventilated space or perhaps even an outdoor setting will be much appreciated and can help set the tone of your business meeting.
Prevention is better than cure and keeping clean is an excellent way to keep Covid-19 at bay. If you are organising a business meeting, place hand sanitisers at accessible areas around your meeting space. This way, participants can sanitise their hands regularly before or after physical contact or touching surfaces. Do also ensure that your washroom has a good supply of hand soap. Overall, handwashing and the use of hand sanitiser can prevent the spread of germs and reduce the spread of the virus.
On top of encouraging personal hygiene, give the meeting room a good clean and wipe down high-touch surfaces such as tables, chairs and door handles before and after your business meeting. You can also inform meeting participants that the room has been cleaned for their safety to put them at ease to focus on work.
In the United States, fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear a face mask unless required by certain laws or workplace guidelines. Wearing a mask in the workplace is a must in Singapore and other Asian countries. As the number of vaccinated people increases, there will come a time where we can do away with masks in public settings. For now, however, wearing a mask in business meetings is good etiquette and shows that you care for the people around you.
If you are organising a meeting, it could be a nice gesture to provide spare masks for employees and guests. Especially in humid weather, wearing a mask all day can get uncomfortable. Changing face masks could be a quick and refreshing change.
If you are feeling unwell on the day, it is crucial that you do not attend the meeting to prevent spreading the virus. Even if you do not have symptoms of Covid-19 and you are sure it is just a regular flu, it is best to stay at home until you feel better for the comfort and safety of everyone. Monitor yourself for symptoms and take a swab test at an authorised Covid-19 test provider if needed.
As a meeting organiser, It is a good idea to notify participants in advance that if they do develop any symptoms before the meeting or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, that they should refrain from attending the business meeting.
As we get back to business as usual, getting vaccinated is highly advisable. Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 keeps you safe by reducing the chances of you being infected and also reduces the chances of you transmitting the virus. Countries are currently working towards vaccinating a majority of their population to provide protection for everyone. Although the Covid-19 vaccine is not made compulsory, it offers the best chance to overcome the spread of the virus and help the economy worldwide rebound.
Encourage your employees and those close to you to get vaccinated. If you are in Singapore and are Singaporean or a long term resident, you can register for a vaccination online or if you have any queries, you can call the hotline on 1800-333-9999. For those living in Malaysia, full details about registering for the COVID-19 vaccination are available online here.
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