Graphic of two people shaking hands.


I recorded an essay for RTE Radio 1 The Business about the demise of the handshake. You can listen here or read below or sure why not do both like a total rockstar.

Of all the things I’ve missed over the last 18 months, the handshake has not been one of them. On my worst days when I’ve missed family and friends desperately. When the prospect of yet another walk made me want to fling myself on the floor, I never once thought ‘What I wouldn’t give for a very firm handshake right now.’ 

As far as Dr. Anthony Fauci is concerned, the handshake should not be resuscitated. But if we phase out the handshake, what’s next Joe? The demise of the High Five? The banishment of the Fist Bump. It’s a slippery slope and frankly, it’s a development The Handshaking Industry did not see coming. 

As far as they were concerned, they were on the pigs back. The handshake was a permanent and immoveable tradition – and they had every right to feel so confident. After all, it’s been around a long time. Some historians believe the origins of the practice date back to the 5th century B.C. It’s thought that it was first used as a gesture of peace.

It showed that neither person was holding a weapon and could be trusted. Cut to 2021, and very few of us carry a crossbow to work these days. And whilst a travel mug filled with hot coffee can be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands,  that’s as close to a munition one can expect in an industrial estate office on a Monday morning.

But as some workers start the transition back into the office full-time, what other greeting options do we have? Look, I know we’ll all be thrilled about seeing the work printer again but how do we mark seeing our colleagues in the flesh after so long apart? Do we gawp at each other saying ‘It’s mad, isn’t it? Being back. Mad! Nothing’s changed…’ repeatedly as we listen to the Burco boil in the background? 

It’s certainly one option but what about if you work in a very creative space – the type that has an office dog and a beehive on the roof, adopting a quick Dab, Tik Tok style might be just the ticket? Those who work in a more corporate environment may want to introduce saluting as the norm? Naturally, these new practices will feel uncomfortable at first but if we’ve learned anything since last March it’s how to winter things out and adapt. 

Still, you’d miss an ol’ handshakes for what they reveal about your fellow shaker. The person giving off major Master or Mistress of the Universe energy during a meeting, doesn’t fill you with resounding confidence when they offer a wet fish handshake at the end.. Then there’s the bone cringingly awkwardness of the accidental hug-handshake. You extend your hand to signal the conclusion of the interaction, but the other person thinks a hug is about to happen and then..go tobann,ohh cringeeeeee .the awkward clash. In these situations, it’s perfectly acceptable to close your business immediately, change your name and assume a new identity.

So going forward, to use some classic office-lingo none of us have missed, perhaps we should wave goodbye to the handshake once and for all. But if you really can’t resist the occasional hand grab, just make sure, to ‘51551, wash your hands.