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Handshakes During Flu Season

Handshakes During Flu Season

With the flu season upon us as well as colds cropping up, people are wondering about the proper etiquette for shaking hands. This does pose a real problem. It’s funny that this question would be asked of me today, as I was just speaking on business etiquette in Raleigh, NC. We discussed the importance of the handshake as a good business tool. We even practiced the “right” way to shake someone’s hand.

The reality is that germs can travel with the handshake. So what is a person to do? Here are a few options:

1. Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk (and in your purse or pant pocket). After you have shaken someone’s hand, and after they are out of your eyesight, load up on the hand sanitizer.

2. When you meet someone, keep your hand at your side and just say with a smile on your face, “I am pleased to meet you.”

3. This one is rather risky and may feel strange to you. If you are comfortable in being perfectly open with an individual who extends their hand to you first, keep your hands at your side and politely say something like, “I am pleased to meet you Joe. Excuse me for not shaking your hand. I prefer to avoid it during flu season.”

On the other side of this coin, please be sure to keep your work area sanitary. And if you feel a cold or the flu coming on, do not go to work. It’s amazing that employees think they are good employees because they show up sick! That actually is a selfish gesture as germs spread quickly in the workplace. You can set off a series of other people becoming ill which costs the company money and eventually affects everyone in terms of raises and benefits.

I became acutely aware of the seriousness of this as my husband underwent 7 months of bi-weekly chemotherapy in 2007 and 2008. I could not afford to get one little cold for fear of getting him sick as his body was already at a disadvantage.

Today, at the office where I was speaking, they had several large bottles of hand sanitizer throughout their offices — such as in the reception area, break room, and our meeting room. I even used it myself after shaking someone’s hand today. I thought that was a great idea and demonstrated being proactive.

What do you think?

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