Is the coronavirus killing good etiquette, too?
“Please sit down,” the banker told me.
We had both been standing for a good number of seconds in uncomfortable silence. A few thoughts were circling in my head: “I am wearing rubber gloves and a mask. Would it be bad if I sat down and touched the armrest? Or should I forget about being polite and just stand here?” Sitting down is such a basic thing to do—under normal circumstances.
Customers who often visit banks or any place requiring face-to-face interaction would probably find this scenario familiar nowadays. We recently learned that the coronavirus remains on surfaces for more than three hours. How can you be comfortable when you’re told to sit on a chair where countless others might have also sat right before you?
I decided to stand and decline the banker’s polite request. (Let’s call him Rick.) To my relief, he understood my gesture. Rick kept the required six-feet distance as he proceeded to help with my transaction. “Please excuse me that I can’t shake your hand,” he said. “It’s a little unorthodox, isn’t it?”
The process of signing the paperwork was just as awkward. It required Rick to walk up, show the area of signature, put the paper on the desk and move away from it. Similarly, I had to walk up to the desk, sign, and then go back so he could pick it up.
As you can see, social distancing and normal banking don’t really mesh. This is an interesting time where our commodities, daily activities, and basic manners have been altered. People in line are kept six feet apart. Entering a workplace requires monitoring body temperature and escort. Joggers need to zigzag when there’s an oncoming pedestrian. People put more effort into choosing and editing a Zoom video background over showering every day. The social distancing rule throws an interesting curve to interactions. We need to consider several factors while conducting simple tasks like taking a seat offer.
This is all so draining and alien to us because the modern world has defined itself through swift transactions and efficiency. We’re all thinking that we’re in temporary disruption and that we just need to endure the panic and uncomfortable procedures until it’s all over. That our hindered businesses and jobs will only suffer until humanity beats this.
I remember when I visited UPrinting’s Manila office earlier this year, before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic. When I arrived, there was a sign on my designated desk that said, “For your safety, your desk has been sanitized.” It may not seem like much, but I felt that the gesture was sweet, that the staff showed some care for me.
I’m not expecting the bank desk to be constantly sanitized but messages that tell me how I can work and function through these pandemic-altered processes would at least offer a sense of ease and stability. A table tent sign that says “Sorry for not shaking your hands, but we welcome you” or an employee with a name label that says “I’ve been scanned for COVID-19 today” would reassure customers such as myself. I don’t doubt that we’ll eventually come back to the status quo, but it probably won’t be any time soon.
For now, social distancing is here to stay and maybe we need to treat like the current world is the normal world right now and adapt the best way we can.
Here are some print products to help you and your customers ease into “the new normal” protocols and precautions for your establishment.
1. Name tag
Have your employees wear name tags that say “I’ve been scanned for COVID-19 today.” You can indicate the current date on the name tag’s writable surface.
2. Laminated sign or label
3. Fabric Banner
Inform and assure customers that chairs and other contact surfaces are regularly sanitized. Hang a fabric banner at the back of the chairs in your store, bank, or office. The banner can say, ‟This chair has been sanitized from COVID-19.”
4. Table Tent
Does your business require multiple face to face interactions? Display table tents that say, “Sorry for not shaking your hands but we welcome you.” This maintains the polite yet approachable response needed when meeting with customers.
Ease your customers’ worries at the entrance with a poster promoting how your business is monitoring and protecting itself against the coronavirus. Your poster can say something like, “Your well-being & safety is our priority” or any steps your establishment is taking to protect both customers and employees.
You could also post the symptoms of COVID-19 and the action they can take for everyone’s safety. If you need a display ASAP, download any of these free CDC design templates.
Soo Chyun is an experienced UX/UI Director living in Los Angeles. She is also the founder, director, writer, and composer of the Ezekiel Drama Ministry. All of which have assisted her creative process and thinking for the former. Her acclaimed works include the Musical Maroo Village, Son of Man, and the award-winning play Maron Doll which is about to be retold as a short film.