The mask, the nose, the question
When the mask on the coworker I was talking with kept slipping, leaving his nose uncovered, I asked if he was vaccinated.
He got huffy, saying, “That’s none of your business.”
I said, “But your mask keeps slipping.” He gave me an angry look and said, “I have a beard. If I talk it pulls it down. Just don’t talk to me.” He turned his back on me.
How close is too close?
When I walked into the conference room for our first “back in the office meeting,” I grabbed a seat next to a coworker whose company I’ve always enjoyed. She looked horrified, and then embarrassed as she moved to a chair three feet away. I looked around the room and realized everyone was physically distanced. “Sorry,” I called out, and felt everyone’s eyes on me. A guy seated across the room shook his head.
These two situations were given me by blog readers who asked for a post on “the new workplace rules”. Here’s what I told them:
The “are you vaccinated” question
You’re allowed to ask your coworker if s/he’s vaccinated? It’s not a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation, but a legitimate issue given the public health crisis. You can use your knowledge of his/her vaccination status to know whether to physically distance and wear a mask around him/her. You might soften your approach with “Are you willing to talk about your vaccination status?”
Don’t expect your manager to answer a similar question about your coworker’s vaccination status as the manager needs to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act provisions that prohibit managers from disclosing an employee’s individual health information.
The slipping mask
Your bearded coworker needs to wear a better-fitting mask; plenty of bearded individuals have figured out how to accomplish masks that protect those with whom they talk. If you need to interact with this team member, try a Zoom call from your separate offices or mention the situation to your manager.
How close is too close
Until someone invites you closer, physically distance from others, whether at meetings or in the elevator. While some coworkers feel fully comfortable at the office, many others worry they’ll inadvertently bring illness home to at-risk family members.
Would love to hear stories and solutions — what interesting situations have occurred now that you’re back in the office?
Subscribing to the blog is easy
If you’d like to get 3 to 5 posts a week delivered to your inbox (and NO spam), just add your email address below. (I’ll never sell it.) I’m glad you’ve joined this vibrant blog. Thank you!