Most of us are probably familiar with the standard coronavirus prevention advice: Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, regularly sanitise common surfaces like door handles, and wash your hands again.
And, if you can, avoid handshakes.
Why? Because you don’t know if the other person has washed their hands as often as you have, and you probably won’t have the opportunity to run to the nearest sink as soon as the handshake is over. (Though I will admit that in situations where I shake hands before a meal, I nearly always find an excuse to go use the restroom before I actually eat anything—if we’re at a restaurant, it’s usually right after the server takes our order.)
But how do you greet someone, personally or professionally, without either a hug or a handshake? Well, CNBC suggests elbow bumping or “footshaking,” which involves tapping your foot against someone else’s:
In China, bumping feet has been dubbed the “Wuhan shake,” named after the city at the epicentre of the virus outbreak, with videos of the greeting going viral.
Fist bumping is also a decent option. As Harvard Health Medicine reports:
Shaking hands transmitted 2 times more bacteria than high fives, and 10 times more bacteria than bumping fists.
And I’ve spent enough time at comic conventions (where people transmit so many germs that the post-convention malaise is literally called “con crud”) to know how to gracefully look at an outstretched hand and respond by pressing my hands together at my chest and nodding my head. This Thai “wai” greeting was recently recommended by Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases at the World Health Organisation, as a COVID-19 handshake alternative.
— Dr Sylvie Briand (@SCBriand) March 1, 2020
Of course, the real question isn’t what to do instead of shaking someone’s hand. It’s how to do it. Waves, nods, and fist bumps might work in a casual environment, but can you pull it off in the workplace? Is it possible to reject a customer or client’s hand and offer your elbow or foot instead?
These days, maybe. A lot of us are concerned about the coronavirus right now, so it might be easier than you think to say “Oh, I’m doing fist bumps” or simply hold out your fist. As long as you perform your handshake alternative with confidence (and, if possible, a smile) the other person will probably follow your lead.
And if you do end up in a situation where skipping the handshake is not an option, remember to keep your hands as far away from your face as possible—and wash them well, the next time you get the chance.