Do Your Clients Have a Right to Know if You're Pro or Anti-Mask?
Lots of businesses have been slowly opening up which means they've had to (hopefully) take a look at how they run things. For my clients who are service providers, it also means they've had to make some changes.
Many are still working remotely, but some have opened up some in-person meetings. I've encouraged everyone to post their policies surround COVID-19 (if necessary) and we're doing that for several reasons:
1. We're communicating that we're sensitive to the issue and have given it a lot of thought.
2. It's another way to promote the business, what they offer, and how they can still serve people at this time.
But there is one thing that's missing from many of the COVID-19 policies that are out there: Whether or not the service provider wears a mask during their free time.
Mask wearing has become a heated debate; some feel that it violates their rights while others feel that if you don't wear a mask you're putting everyone else in danger. Some people think it does nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19 while others think it's essential the moment they walk out the door. Some people walk around with their faces exposed while others are grateful that a mask covers the zit on their chin.
Or maybe that's just me.
You might be side-stepping this debate as much as possible and I don't blame you. I try to as well. I know what I feel comfortable doing and what I wish others would do, but I know that that's not something I can demand.
The question is this: IF YOU ARE STARTING TO SEE CLIENTS FACE-TO-FACE OR YOU'VE BEEN AN ESSENTIAL WORKER THIS ENTIRE TIME...DO YOUR CLIENTS HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW IF YOU'RE PRO OR ANTI-MASK?
Right before Christmas, my mom fell as she was walking into my daughter's choir concert and fractured her upper arm. She didn't require surgery, but her recovery has been long and painful.
When her doctor finally cleared her for physical therapy, my mom was thrilled that she was accepted by a highly sought-after therapist. She wanted to work with this woman so much she would show up for 6:30 AM appointments. That is...until the therapist mentioned a gathering she'd been to one week.
During a casual conversation, the therapist told my mother that she had been to an event the weekend before (of around 100 people) in Wyoming and how no one was wearing masks - including her. And my mom - who at that point hadn't even left the house to go to the grocery store - promptly canceled all of her future appointments.
"I haven't spent all this time being careful just to come into close contact with someone who's just been around 100 people from all over the country who didn't wear masks," she said. And I agreed with her - that was her right to make that choice.
I've run into a situation like that myself. I have someone I see as a service provider on a regular basis who, I've since found out, is "anti-mask" (and, ironically, has had health issues. When I think about putting on a mask, she's someone I think I'm protecting). While I don't want to end my professional relationship with this person, it will be a long time before I see them in person.
And it's completely her right - and the right of that physical therapist - to not wear a mask if they so choose. But isn't it also MY right, as the client, to either stop working with that person or find an alternative solution if I feel that that puts me at risk?
While it might be unreasonable for me to expect everyone to disclose whether or not they are pro or anti-mask, I believe that it's perfectly okay to ask service providers if they wear masks regularly during their personal time if we're about to meet with them face-to-face. And I realize that that opens up a can of worms of people asking, "So, are you going to ask the guy who bags your groceries if he always wears a mask?"
But just as it's your right to not wear one, it should be my right to choose whether or not I feel comfortable working with you. And if wearing a mask is something that you choose to do, then you might even add that to your COVID-19 policies as a business: "While working with clients and interacting in public, I choose to wear a mask for my safety and the safety of others."
And if you choose not to wear a mask during your personal time...I certainly hope that's something you share with your clients. Like my 72-year-old mother with a compromised immune system.
You're making a choice. Allow her to do the same.