An online TIME article titled "The Coronavirus Killed the Handshake and the Hug. What Will Replace Them?" made us wonder if handshakes will be replaced forever by other gestures, and if so, what will these gestures be?  Or will it simply be a case of getting to the end of the virus, a successful vaccine being created, and life returning to “normal” as we know it?


At the beginning 

At the beginning of the pandemic meeting someone for the first time, and not shaking hands felt really odd!  For many of us replacing a handshake with the nudge of elbows felt slightly better as we adjusted to the new norm.  However, as with all things in life, we do adjust and all these weeks and months later not shaking hands feels a little more normal. Now, the idea of shaking hands with someone seems weird and is a little awkward.  However, habits can be hard to break and sometimes people do still thrust their hand out to shake with one of two things happening:

  1. Given the spontaneity of the situation (and old habits) you end up shaking hands before you can do anything about it.  And you then think to yourself, “Oh no, COVID, germs!” before quickly (and surreptitiously) searching for hand sanitizer to disinfect and trying to remember to not touch your face.
  2. Or you have your wits about you and refuse the outstretched hand. Most people understand this, but even so it feels rude.


Why science says we should be avoiding handshaking

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says, Because this is a pandemic, because there is virtually no population immunity, and because we know that people can transmit while being either presymptomatic or showing minimal symptoms, every handshake that you have runs the risk of exposing you or the person you are shaking hands with to the virus.”


Why we shake hands during business hours

Research published two years ago showed that when we shake hands in business environments it can improve the outcomes of negotiations on both sides.  At the time of publication the author, Assistant Professor Juliana Schroeder at the UC Berkeley's Hass School of Business, said "When you shake hands with someone, you make an immediate inference that 'They are going to cooperate with me; they are not going to do me harm' and so you decide to cooperate with them." 


Handshake alternatives

In replacing the handshake the website Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests the following alternative modes of acknowledgement and greeting:

  1. Offer a nod and a smile.
  2. Take a "dip" - dipping your head in acknowledgement.
  3. Make a good first impression.
  4. Develop a workplace code - create a company wide, germ-free greeting.
  5. Take a bow.
  6. Go for 'Namaste' - a Hindu gesture involving pressing your palms and fingers together at your chest and bowing slightly, saying the words "Namaste", expressing silent good will to one another (we like this one!).
  7. Focus on eye contact (particularly during this time of COVID-19 and wearing face masks).

Ultimately our hope at Integral Engineering Co. is that one day we will return to life without face masks and once again be able to shake hands and hug.  In the meantime our goal is to keep our business partners, employees and ourselves as healthy as possible and free of COVID-19 using our masks and alternative business greetings. Namaste!




1. Oaklander, Mandy., ‘The Coronavirus Killed the Handshake and the Hug. What Will Replace Them?’ TIME, May 27, 2020.

2. Airs, Mark., ‘Wither the handshake?’ The Harvard Gazette, March 30, 2020.

3. Public Affairs, UC Berkeley., ‘Handshake makes for better deals in business.’ August 3, 2018.

4. Egan, John., ‘Waving Goodbye to the Handshake: 7 Alternatives to a Workplace Custom.’ SHRM, April 27, 2020.


Image by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash