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Should you stop shaking hands at job interviews or with clients?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Handshakes are a near universal business greeting, but in the era of COVID-19, we need to come up with a more hygienic way of saying hello.

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handshake death

With the novel coronavirus beginning to spread to parts and in ways somewhat unknown, the experts agree: the handshake is so 2019. “Just DON’T do it” is the message we are receiving loud and clear from the World Health Organization, along with other medical and public health professionals.

However, we as a species in general are drawn to touch. Handshakes are an ingrained part of business etiquette, especially in the U.S. and other western cultures. This begs the question: what should you do when someone extends their hand in a job interview or business meeting? If you’re the one recoiling from a potential employer’s touch, won’t that affect your chances of getting hired? Or what if you whip out your trusty hand sanitizer immediately afterward, as if to cleanse yourself of the other person’s cooties?

These questions are valid. Neither move is a good look for someone trying to curry favor and make a good impression on a future employer or coworker. Not all people believe that handshakes are problematic or could even be a way to spread the virus. Also, for most of us, the handshake is a deeply entrenched personal and cultural habit. We reach out to others without being fully aware we’re doing it.

Evidence of handshakes date back to the 5th Century. They were common practice in the Roman era. Back then, extending your right hand–the dominant hand for most people–was intended to show you were not packing a weapon. In modern days, it is the top, go-to, person-to-person greeting. Like all habits, it won’t be easy to kick.

Top tips for avoiding getting sick or spreading COVID-19 are still to wash your hands vigorously and frequently, avoid touching your face, cough or sneeze into your elbow,and stay home if you’re sick. Yet, handshakes are rapidly falling out of favor as an acceptable form of greeting. One thing we know about the coronavirus is that we don’t know enough. Decreasing your intentional contact via the primary body part that moves from object to handrail to door handle to person to money, then hand, hair and mouth seems like a no-brainer.

What is the solution? Great question, amigo. Bringing up concerns at the beginning of an interaction might come across as paranoid or rude, but it may be the only way to actually avoid the now dreaded handshake. Expressing something like “Nice to meet you, but I’m trying not to shake hands to help keep everyone safe” is straightforward. It feels counterintuitive, though, and the other person may be initially taken aback.

However, the odds of that person appreciating your candor and cleanliness will likely be in your favor. At best, they’ll be grateful and agree. At worst, they’ll be offended, though honesty remains the best policy. If someone holds an honest, recommended, precautionary measure against you, perhaps it’s a sign this isn’t an ideal match.

Videos and articles are making the rounds on alternatives to the handshake. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the ones I’ve seen.

  • Fist bumps still mean hand to hand contact, but are much quicker, with a smaller contact area. Plus, the back of the hand is less often used to touch your face (which we also need to stop doing).
  • Polite nods are great. They are less personal, yet acknowledge the other person’s presence in a friendly way.
  • Elbow bumps are oddly starting to take off, though the advice to cough or sneeze into your elbow, albeit the other side, leaves me cringing a bit.
  • The footshake looks hilarious and could be precarious for those with a shoddy sense of balance. But they are safer, hygiene-wise.
  • Hand signs are neato and fun, too. Waving or flashing a peace sign is friendly and safe. If you live in Austin, where The American Genius and the University of Texas are based, why not start busting out your “Hook ‘em Horns” sign? You’ll look cool and like a bonafide Austinite.
  • Do like Broadway is doing, and maybe stick to jazz hands?

Another option, and one that appears to be becoming more popular, is to take more meetings virtually. Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and a host of other video-conferencing tools are readily available to anyone with a computer or smartphone. They present a viable, outstanding and totally hygienic choice.

Personally I’d like to see us all wearing hats again. Can’t you see greeting each other like a dandy in the early 1900s, with a jaunty tip of the hat? In any case, with more reported COVID-19 cases in more cities and countries around the world, we should hope to see fewer handshakes and more hygienic ways to say hello.

If you are caught in an awkward situation and feel obligated to shake hands, don’t freak out. Try restraining yourself from touching your face until you manage to perform your 20-second hand washing. Good luck, and until further notice, I tip my hat to you, good sir or madam.

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Business News

Coca Cola drops 200 brands, most you’ve never heard of

(BUSINESS NEWS) Coca Cola hopes to revitalize their drink arsenal by rolling back some “underperforming” brands (that you might not have known they were still making.)

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Woman drinking Coca Cola against plain wall

2020 has forced a lot of businesses to return to their proverbial drawing boards, and the Coca Cola Company is no exception. Last week, Coca Cola announced in a corporate blog post that they are halting the production of 200 of their beverage brands.

In the words of Cath Coetzer, the head of global marketing for Coca Cola, the restructuring will “accelerate [Coke’s] transformation into a total beverage company”.

“We’re prioritizing bets that have scale potential across beverage categories, consumer need states and drinking occasions,” Coetzer added. “Because scale is the algorithm that truly drives growth.”

That’s… a surprising amount of technical beverage jargon, Cath.

Coca Cola is already the leading manufacturer of non-alcoholic drinks on the planet. It’s hard to imagine their scope becoming any more “total.” But this strategy shift comes as the consumer thirst for soda is drying up.

Soda consumption has steadily fallen over the last ten consecutive years, thanks to a swath of modern studies that link excess sugar intake with negative health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In light of this research, regional sales taxes on drinks with added sugar have been debated across the country, despite aggressive corporate lobbying against it. All this has meant that beverage companies have had no choice but to pivot hard.

Take Odwalla, a Coca Cola brand that touted its vitamin content and servings of produce, which was discontinued earlier this year. Despite being marketed as a health brand, Odwalla flavors contained whopping amounts of added sugar: Their popular “superfood” flavor quietly boasted 47 grams per bottle.

The brands affected by Coke’s recent soda cull also include TAB diet soda, ZICO coconut water, and Coca Cola Life, plus internationally marketed drink brands like Vegibeta of Japan and Kuat of Brazil.

Condensing their portfolio allows Coca Cola to prioritize their most profitable products and invest in more new beverage trendsetters that better fit the times, like sparkling water, coffee, or even cannabis-infused products.

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Business News

Uber and Lyft face the music as employee ruling is upheld

(BUSINESS NEWS) The battle for Uber and Lyft drivers’ status continues, and despite company protests, the official ruling has been upheld.

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Interior of Uber and Lyft rideshare looking out on palm trees

A gig economy has its pros and cons. For anyone who has ever been an independent contractor, done freelance work, or worked for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, the pros are clear – you get to work when you want, where you want and how much you want. Flexibility and gigs go hand in hand.

And the cons? Well, those are a little more complex. Without a W2 linking you directly to the company, you as an independent contractor don’t receive the same rights and perks that your 9-5 employee friends might. For example, your employer is not required to provide a healthcare option for you. You are also not entitled to earned time off or minimum wage.

So which is better?

The gig economy conundrum has made its way all the way to an appellate court in California last week. The ruling was that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees.

Back in May, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from L.A., San Diego and San Francisco brought forth a lawsuit that argues Uber and Lyft gain an unfair, unlawful competitive advantage by not classifying their workers as W2s.

Uber and Lyft responded to the suit, stating that if they were to reclassify their drivers as employees, their companies would be irreparably harmed – though the judge in last week’s ruling negated that claim, stating that neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and also that the financial burden of converting workers to employees “do[es] not rise to the level of irreparable harm.” Essentially, the judge called their BS.

Additionally, according to the judge, there is nothing that would prevent Uber and Lyft from offering flexibility and independence to their drivers – and they have had plenty of time to transition their drivers from independent contractors to employees (the gig worker bill that spurred this lawsuit was decided in 2018). Seems fair to me!

However, there is an oppositional proposition on the ballot that muddies the waters. Proposition 22, if passed, is a measure that would keep rideshare drivers and delivery workers classified as independent contractors, meaning that those workers from Uber and Lyft would be exempt from the new state law that classifies them as W-2 employees. And you might be surprised to know how many of the app-based rideshare workers are in favor of Prop 22!

In a class-action lawsuit, Uber has been accused of encouraging drivers and delivery workers to support Prop 22 via the company’s driver-scheduling app. It appears, unfortunately, that Uber is manipulating its workforce by wrongly hanging their jobs over their heads.

On this matter, Gig Workers Rising stated: “If Uber and Lyft are successful in passing Prop. 22 and undo the will of the people, they will inspire countless other corporations to adapt their business models and misclassify workers in order to further enrich the wealthy few at the expense of their workforce.”

Ultimately, the fate of California Uber and Lyft driver’s in still in question. It’s unclear if the question we should be asking is, will Lyft drivers have proper healthcare through their jobs or will they have jobs at all. All of this is occurring at a time where millions are jobless and 158,000 individuals sought unemployment support this week due to COVID-19 layoffs.

Personally, I have little sympathy for tech-giants that rake in billions off the backs of the exploited working-class. If the CEO of Uber is an ostentatious billionaire, then his employees should have health insurance. Clear and simple.

The scariest part of the gig economy is that workers have become increasingly happy to work for a company that gives them little to no benefits. More companies are dissolving or combining positions so that they can further bypass their responsibilities to their employees. Let us not be fooled: The dispute over whether or not to make Uber and Lyft workers W2 employees does not affect the health of the companies themselves. What it will affect is how fat the bonuses will be the big guys at the top, and that’s exactly why the companies are so adverse to the ruling. They’d rather their workers suffer than lose a single dime.

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Business News

Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time

(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.

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Person packed a bag and walking away from co-living space.

Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.

But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.

In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”

This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.

HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.

Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.

As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.

HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.

They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.

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