As the number of Covid cases fell this spring, states and cities around the U.S. dropped their mask mandates. And after a federal judge’s ruling on April 18, the requirement to wear a mask on planes, trains, and other public transportation was over.
Indeed, barring a major new variant, planners are unlikely to ask or require attendees at face-to-face meetings in 2022 and beyond to don a mask.
But what about the attendees who choose to do so? Will the culture of your event make it comfortable for them to wear a face covering?
With the return to the in-person work environment, “mask shaming” has become a cause for concern. Workers who choose to continue to wear a mask have sometimes been stigmatized by those who believe it’s inappropriate, ineffective, or politicized.
Similarly, in the meeting and event environment, planners need to recognize that some attendees will continue to wear masks because they or someone in their household has a chronic health condition, isn’t vaccinated, or simply wants to remain vigilant. Recognizing that masks have become politically charged, it’s important to think about whether your event has an inclusive culture for attendees going against the current no-mask norm.
Here are four easy ways to help normalize the presence of masks in the meeting environment.
• Maintain a “safety protocols” section on the event website even as the pandemic wanes. Include a statement about your organization’s continued support for Covid-19 safety protocols, including mask wearing. Feature images of individuals wearing masks.
• In your event code of conduct, state that attendees should respect all participants’ personal choice on the mask issue and that any harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
• If attendee attire is discussed in the conference materials, note that masks are an optional part of the dress code.
• Provide a supply of masks by the registration desk, both as a service to attendees who might want one and to make the presence of masks in the meeting environment a common sight.