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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

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but it seems more people are asked about their personal life. How do you escape this problem?

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

Walmart delays the launch of its Amazon Prime competing service

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart+ is being delayed once again, but the service has yet to be cancelled. Will it be another flop?

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Walmart+ Amazon

Walmart+, the supposed Amazon Prime alternative of the century, has been delayed from launching until further notice. This marks the second delay of the year.

Vox reports that the Amazon Prime competitor was initially supposed to launch in the first quarter of 2020, but Walmart pushed the release back to July due to Coronavirus concerns. Now, Walmart+ doesn’t have a definitive launch date–indecision that’s easy to chalk up to both the ongoing pandemic and trepidation regarding profitability in an Amazon-dominated world.

Amazon Prime, a service which runs customers $119 per year, has well over 100 million members in the United States; that works out to at least one member in a little over 80 percent of households here. Between its ubiquitous nature and the fact that Amazon Prime members are more inclined to use Amazon frequently than non-Prime members, it isn’t hard to see why a premium Walmart subscription seems a little redundant.

But Walmart doesn’t see it that way. “Walmart executives have hoped the program would strike a balance of being valuable enough that customers will pay for it, while boasting different enough perks from Amazon Prime so that there aren’t perk-by-perk comparisons,” Vox posits. At $98 per year, Walmart+ would include things like same-day delivery, gas discounts, line-skipping, a dedicated credit card, and potentially even a video streaming service.

While there are some clear parallels between Amazon Prime and Walmart+, one can attribute those to convenience rather than imitation. People seem to enjoy having extra streaming options as a perk of Prime, so for Walmart+ to include something similar wouldn’t exactly be inappropriate.

The largest obstacle to Walmart+’s success in a post-Coronavirus world probably won’t have much to do with brand loyalty, but the fact remains that Amazon’s value is so far above and beyond Walmart’s that people who regularly use Amazon Prime aren’t likely to make the switch–and, as mentioned previously, the sheer number of people who have a Prime membership is high enough to be concerning to Walmart executives.

However, for customers who frequently shop at Walmart or live in relatively rural areas, Walmart+ doesn’t seem like a bad gig. It isn’t Amazon Prime, to be sure–but that’s the point.

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Business News

What COVID-19 measures do workplaces have to take to reopen?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employers can’t usually do medical screenings – but it’s a little different during a pandemic.

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COVID-19 temp gun

Employers bringing personnel back to work are faced with the challenge of protecting their workforce from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidelines on how to do so safely and legally.

Employee health and examinations are usually a matter of personal privacy by design through the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, after the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic in March, the U.S. EEOC revised its guidance to allow employers to screen for possible infections in order to protect employees.

Employers are now allowed to conduct temperature screenings and check for symptoms of the coronavirus. They can also exclude from the workplace those they suspect of having symptoms. The recommendations from the CDC also include mandatory masks, distant desks, and closing common areas. As the pandemic and US response evolves, it is important for employers to continue to monitor any changes in guidance from these agencies.

Employers are encouraged to have consistent thresholds for symptoms and temperature requirements and communicate those with transparency. Though guidance suggests that COVID-19 screenings at work are allowed by law, employers should be mindful of the way they are conducted and the impact it may have on employer-employee relations.

Stanford Health Care is taking a bold approach by performing COVID-19 testing on each of its 14,000 employees that have any patient contact. They implemented temperature scanning stations at each entrance, operated by nurses and clinicians. The President and CEO of Sanford Health Care said, “For our patients to trust the clinical procedures and trials, it was important for them to know that we were safe.”

Technology is adapting to meet the needs of employers and identify symptoms of COVID-19. Contactless thermometers that can check the temperature of up to 1,500 people per hour using thermal imaging technology are now on the market; they show an error margin of less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. COVID-19 screening is being integrated into some company time-clocks used by employees at the start and end of each shift. The clocks are being equipped with a way to record employee temperatures and answers to a health questionnaire. Apple and Google even collaborated to bring contact tracing to smart phones which could help contain potential outbreaks.

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the three most common symptoms of COVID-19. Transmission is still possible from a person who is asymptomatic, but taking the precautions to identify these symptoms can help minimize workplace spread. This guidance may change in the future as the pandemic evolves, but for now, temperature checks are a part of back to work for many.

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