Stopping the spread of coronavirus is a top priority for all Canadians. As concerns about the community spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) ramp up, many people are reevaluating the centuries-old practice of shaking hands and whether it still has a place in 21st century business practices. Especially in the business world where shaking hands is a standard greeting.

Considering how quickly the virus is spreading, many people are taking extra precautions and cutting back on social contact. That includes handshaking. If you’re one of the people who plans to stop or cut back on shaking hands, here are a few things you can do to make it a little less awkward to break with convention and adopt some new safer habits during the pandemic.


avoid the interaction in the first place

The safest thing you can do at this time is to prevent the in-person interaction from happening in the first place. There are tons of ways to connect with colleagues and others without seeing them in person. From video conferencing, to phone calls, to instant messaging, there are plenty of ways to stay in contact with others that don’t involve physical contact. Many companies are setting up employees to work from home and implementing meetings, business interactions, and even job interviews are being set up through completely digital channels.

don’t ignore the situation

Be upfront about the fact you’re not shaking hands. Don’t ignore an outstretched hand and pretend the situation doesn’t exist – that’ll just make it even more awkward if the other person doesn’t understand what’s happening. Express that you don’t want to shake hands at this time because of what is happening with coronavirus. People will understand. In fact, many people will likely also be refraining from shaking hands and be relieved.

keep it light

When you explain that you are not shaking hands, keep your explanation simple. A sentence or two will suffice. Then move on to the main purpose of your meeting. There is no need to go into a long-winded explanation. COVID-19 is dominating the news and most people will understand why you are choosing not to shake hands.

use positive body language

There are more ways than shaking hands to make a good impression. Body language is one of them. People who smile often are liked more by their colleagues. Having an open and welcoming smile, and friendly body language makes you more approachable.

convey warmth in your tone

Your tone of voice says a lot, especially if you are meeting someone for the first time.  Be sincere and warm. Genuinely express happiness at meeting or seeing someone, even if you’re foregoing the typical social etiquette.

wave or head nod

If you really want to make an impression, you could resort to other types of greetings. You could give a wave, nod your head, give a thumbs up, offer up an air high five or even an elbow tap. Obviously, how you greet someone will depend on who it is. Have fun with it and make the best of the situation.

carry sanitizer

People slip up all the time. Just in case you do shake someone’s hand out of habit, make sure you carry sanitizer with you. That is, if you can find some. If you don’t have any, wash your hands as soon as you can. If you have extra to spare, offer to share some.

wash your hands anyway

Even if you’re not shaking hands, it’s still a healthy practice to wash your hands frequently. There are many other surfaces that could also transfer the spread of coronavirus and even the common cold. Washing your hands is the best thing you can do to prevent getting sick during cold and flu season.


COVID-19 has many people on edge, and social distancing has become common. So it’s understandable that many people are refraining from shaking hands for the time being. It’s the responsible thing to do at this time, and most people you interact with will not take it personally considering the severity of the situation.

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