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Bringing back lost art office etiquette Marketplace

"Return to the office" is happening at a lower rate than before the pandemic, leading to the need for office etiquette training.

The long-awaited "return to the office" appears to be finally happening, although at a slower pace compared to pre-pandemic times. Notably, influential companies such as Amazon, TikTok, and Zoom are adopting a stricter stance on requiring in-person work to some extent. According to Kastle Systems, which monitors key card swipes, office occupancy rates in the top 10 cities have surpassed 50% since mid-September.

However, after over three years of extensive remote work, this shift can be challenging for employees. Office culture can be perplexing, with clashing personalities, unspoken rules about dress codes, debates on aromatic lunch foods, and the dilemma of how much personal life to share. To ease this transition, some companies are offering workers refresher courses on professional etiquette.

A recent survey conducted by Resume Builder, involving approximately 1500 business leaders, revealed that around 50% of companies already provide office etiquette training, and an additional 20% plan to implement it in the future. Stacie Haller, the chief career advisor at Resume Builder, highlighted the importance of such training, especially for college graduates who started their education and first jobs remotely. She noted that larger employers like Deloitte and KPMG are leading the way by introducing these programs for their employees. Although concerns about Gen Z workers entering the workforce were prevalent among respondents, most agreed that all employees should undergo this training.

Thomas Farley, an etiquette coach known as Mister Manners, emphasized that office etiquette training can take various forms. Farley, who is in high demand, delivers speeches and workshops at major companies such as JPMorgan Chase, Walt Disney, and the U.S. Army. One aspect he focuses on is the art of office conversation. He advises against starting conversations with mundane topics like weather or traffic, as well as avoiding sensitive subjects like politics. Instead, he recommends discussing quirky, fun, uplifting, or intriguing topics. Farley gathers interesting tidbits from websites like the History Channel's "This Day In History" or the National Day calendar.

Farley also conducts exercises to improve eye contact skills, such as pairing up participants and challenging them to maintain eye contact without speaking for two minutes. Although it may feel awkward, Farley believes it pushes people out of their comfort zones, as it is not something they typically do.

For individuals like Montoya Thomas, a recent college graduate in Houston seeking in-person jobs in cybersecurity, the transition to office life can be particularly daunting. Thomas, who grew up in the foster system and has primarily worked in restaurants and bars, has little experience in an office environment. Most of her college and technical training was completed online. She expressed concerns about dressing appropriately for the office, considering the more relaxed dress codes in the tech industry. Thomas admitted to overthinking conversations and feeling uncertain about whether she is saying the right things.

While challenges like the two-minute eye contact exercise or watching training videos filled with stock footage may not initially seem enjoyable, for individuals like Thomas, receiving clear expectations from employers in a world where workplace norms are constantly changing would be a significant relief, even if it means enduring some awkward moments.

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