The New Normal in the Office: Guidelines for Wearing a Mask at Work

Business attire has a new component during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face masks are available in every conceivable pattern and color these days. In fact, Forbes reports fashion designers are creating masks to accentuate their high-style collections, and many retailers and manufacturers are pivoting to making masks to not only help with the shortage, but also to keep their businesses intact. Masks will be a part of the new normal as offices begin to reopen, and employers will need to state clear guidelines on if, when, how, and where they should be worn, according to one workplace authority.

“As businesses reopen and establish new policies and procedures, safety is a priority. For many, wearing a mask will be required of employees to ensure that safety,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior VP of outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Cloth face coverings do not protect the wearer, but are worn to protect others from contracting COVID-19 from respiratory droplets. The CDC recommends that cloth masks be worn whenever people leave their homes if they cannot ensure social distancing will be practiced. It does not recommend masks be worn by children under age two or by anyone who may have trouble breathing while wearing the mask.

“Regulations differ widely – by state, by city, by industry, by company. Some governmental bodies require masks of certain workers; some simply recommend masks. Some states mandate employers pay for masks, provide them, or reimburse employees who buy their own,” said Challenger.

“Employers have the right to require employees wear masks. If a worker refuses, the company should make every effort to explain the reasons why masks are recommended. Above all, the company should explain the policy exists to ensure work environments are safe,” he added.

Requiring masks has become controversial, and many people do not feel they should be forced to comply with such rules.

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