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Office Mask Etiquette and Style 101

Many of us are heading back to work… but this time, with only our eyes visible.

Masking up at work is vital in the fight against COVID-19, but it’s also a style and etiquette minefield. There are all kinds of pitfalls and questions you may not have thought of:

What kind of mask should I wear with business casual?

How awkward will I look if I wear a blue surgical mask to a meeting with top execs or a potential client?

Can I wear my favourite Arsenal bruised banana mask at work?

What about the floral one?

If you don’t want to end up blushing behind your mask, read on...

How to choose a mask to wear to work

Treat picking your mask like picking out a tie. That means taking your workplace dress code into account.

If your office has a casual or business casual dress code and you’re not face-to-face with customers, a mask with a pattern or motif is probably okay, but save anything brightly coloured or outright wacky for dress-down Friday.

If you’re in a more serious setting, like meeting with leaders or managers, your mask should be about as sober as the ties on display – no pattern, just a plain dark colour, like black, charcoal, or navy. Look at what respected TV presenters are wearing for some ideas.

And if you want something that looks impeccably business casual but not boardroom-level sombre – as with ties, you can’t go far wrong with navy pindot (a pattern of tiny dots, not to be confused with the larger and wackier polka dots).

What not to do

If you wouldn’t wear your favourite football jersey to work, it might not be a good idea to wear a mask with your team’s logo on it either. Be aware of when it’s acceptable and when it’s not. The same goes for masks with unique patterns or unusual fabrics.

If you do wear a distinctive mask, make extra sure you change your mask from day to day. Masks are supposed to be for protection from the virus. You will look insanitary and unconcerned about your coworkers’ health if everyone can see you’re wearing the same grotty mask every day.

Ditch the bandana

For the same reason, even if your company policy allows you to wear a bandana instead of a traditional mask, it’s highly advisable to ditch the bandit look. Bandanas aren’t as effective against COVID as a medical face mask.

If you want to be – and be seen as – a team player, it’s important to show that you care about your colleagues and take their wellbeing seriously enough to wear a proper, good-quality mask.

As an employer, should I provide masks?

When it comes to masks, the most important thing you can do as an employer is to set out a clear mask policy and make sure it’s communicated, so nobody feels awkward or confused about what to do.

Beyond that, it could be a great idea to give out masks with your company logo to staff, especially to those in customer-facing roles who need to look like a presentable team. It’s a good way of making sure everyone has quality protective gear, and could also be a useful way to get brand exposure at events, so the investment would be likely to pay for itself.