Seven ways to stay in the good graces of your coworkers when you’re sick

A fisheye image of a woman checking her temperature.

Hack, hack, sniffle, cough, sneeze. Cold and flu season are upon us. It’s never fun being sick and certainly not enjoyable being around someone who is coughing, sneezing and honking on a regular basis. During this germy time pay attention to these seven etiquette tips to avoid being ostracized by your coworkers when you’re sick.

Take your vitamin D. How is taking vitamin D related to etiquette, you ask? Well, it’s not really, but when you arm your immune system you’re less likely to get sick, which means you’re less likely to get others sick and that’s a mannerly thing to do. Because of a lack of sunshine in the colder months, most people in the Northwest are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for a strong immune system.

Stay home when you’re sick. If you do succumb to the latest germs being passed around, stay home during the infectious time. This is usually when you’re sneezing, coughing and feeling your worst. Trust me, your coworkers will not think you’re a hero if you show up at work hacking and sniffling. Keep your germs at home while you rest and let your body recover.

Mind your tissues. When you do go to work, keep those germy tissues off tables and desks. Dispose of them in a garbage can or put them in your pocket or purse. And, please no blowing and honking in meetings or at lunch. Use the bathroom if you need to manage your mucus. If you’re not the Kleenex carrying sort, I encourage you to change your ways. That used candy wrapper in the bottom of your purse is not going to help you with your drippy nose, and sitting and sniffing is not acceptable. Use a tissue.

Don’t shake hands. When you are contagious, or sound like you are, avoid shaking hands with others. Simply hold your hand over your heart and say, “I’ve got a cold and don’t want to give you my germs, let’s pass on the handshake.”  If you are healthy, but someone obviously sick wants to shake hands, use the same excuse. Unless you work for a company that promotes fist bumping, it’s not an acceptable greeting alternative in the workplace. Someone will expect a handshake and your balled up fist will create an awkward moment.

Cover your mouth. If you need to cough or sneeze, please avoid doing so on others. Cough into the crook of your arm or into a tissue, not your hand. Your hand will touch many communal items and if it’s germy you’re sure to pass those microbes onto others.  If you happen to be without a tissue (what are you waiting for?!) and need to sneeze, again do so into the crook of your arm.

Take your pills in private. Over the counter remedies may help you feel better, but don’t take them in front of others. Keep your pharmacy your little secret and pop those pills or squeeze that spray away from others.

Say “Bless you.” When someone sneezes, it’s a nice gesture to say “Bless you” or “Gesundheit.”  It makes other feel you care. Now, if your coworker is sneezing non-stop, no need to continually wish her good health – one or two times will suffice. After that, she’s on her own.

I wish you good health this germ-ridden season.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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