Aplin Group Blog

Has our greeting etiquette in business changed permanently?
 
There is no doubt that the pandemic has propelled many changes in our lives and business. It highlighted the importance of being technologically up to date with the tools needed to operate remotely. Communication from the top-down has never more critical. Companies are considering work-from-anywhere options instead of the traditional brick-and-mortar office, some indefinitely. But the handshake seems to be a touchy subject, pun intended.

The handshake takes the place of various physical gestures between business colleagues and associates. Have we removed this form of physical connection and unspoken communication for good, or will we once again resume the comfort of our ways?
 
A history of the handshake
The handshake has been around for thousands of years, with many various theories behind what the handshake initially meant in ancient times. Today, the handshake has been a symbol of greeting and the unbounded way we enter an agreement in business. We cannot ignore the importance of the handshake, as it's all about human connection. 
 
The handshake is known worldwide, particularly in business, as a sign of respect. Although not a practice in all cultures, in some Asian countries, hard handshake is considered rude. And in other countries like Thailand, they prefer to bow. If your business spans international borders, it's essential to understand how different cultures perceive the handshake, not only during a pandemic.  

 

Handshake alternatives: some good, some bad
What would replace the handshake should it not make a comeback? Will we seal new deals over elbow bumps and foot taps, or will we move back to a more formal business etiquette?

The elbow bump seems like a fun alternative but still carries a very informal quality. Also, most of us do use our elbows for coughs and sneezes, so it's definitely not an optimal handshake replacement if the purpose is to avoid spreading germs. The fist bump, another causal greeting, has been popularized mainly by athletes in sports. Probably the most awkward alternative greeting of all would be the foot shake or heel tap--just don't do it.

Are we over-complicating this? Perhaps a simple wave, a thumbs up or a smile could replace the handshake. Some customary greetings today in many cultures that could be a good substitute are the head bow (or namaste). Many of these alternatives are helpful during COVID times and would further help reduce influenza infection rates even after the pandemic becomes a distant memory.

 

A handshake comeback seems likely
The consensus is that the handshake will make a comeback. Miryam Roddy, the founder of National Handshake Day, is confident that the handshake will inevitably resume post-pandemic. "The handshake is not going to go away. It helps build relationships," she said. Many healthcare experts suggest using hand sanitizer after contact if the handshake does make its return to the norm.
 
Be prepared for some awkward encounters. Not everyone will return to the handshake, and that is understandable. The pandemic affected everyone worldwide, so we'll need to be more empathic to a handshake rejection or an immediate rinse with sanitizer.
 
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David Aplin Group is a private family and employee-owned Canadian staffing agency founded in Alberta in 1975, recognized as one of Canada's most accomplished recruiting firms. Our mission is to create value at every opportunity.  Blog author, Rachael Pineau is a Consultant at David Aplin Group, based in Calgary, Alberta.

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