The pandemic forced many New Jerseyans out of their cubicles and offices, and to work from home, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

But as the Garden State slowly reopens, businesses are asking their employees to return to the workplace.

How will it play out when coworkers' different views of the health threat collide?

"People range from very neurotic to really reckless," said Maureen Wild, a business etiquette expert in Flemington.

Because neither end of that spectrum can get everything they want, Wild noted, it's important that employers provide clear communication about what's expected of their workers in the way of coronavirus-related safety measures.

"They can say, 'We want you to wear a mask, we don't want it to dangle from one ear. We want you to social distance and use hand sanitizer.' And that's perfectly legit, it doesn't violate your rights," Wild said.

And with those expectations spelled out, employees have a leg to stand on when they want to voice their concerns. Any of these conversations between workers should begin politely and not aggressively, Wild said.

The more lax a company's standards may be, the more opportunity there is for problems to arise among coworkers, she added.

"Some of us are rule followers and some of us aren't, and when there's a paycheck connected you just have to go with the flow," Wild said.

In a new survey by The Conference Board of managers and executives, 35% remained uncertain about when their companies will reopen the workplace. Nearly 40% of companies said they plan to reopen by the first quarter of 2021. Most companies have mandated certain protocols related to the health threat.

"From what I have learned, most companies have taken all necessary precautions to have their offices thoroughly sanitized prior to reopening, and are requesting all employees to have their temperatures taken upon entry and to wear masks," said Roslyn Rolan, owner of The Image and Etiquette Institute of NJ. "This is the new normal for most businesses today."

Those who have issues that may go beyond typical protocols — for example, using the same coffee pot as others — may have to modify their own behavior before expecting to change the behavior of others, according to Wild.

"Don't impose your craziness on your other colleagues," Wild said.

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