The first rule of working in an office is: respect the unspoken rules of office etiquette. Or simply, don’t be ‘That Guy’ (or gal). We all know the one; they love to tuck into a smelly, noisy lunch, and they leave a trail of mess and destruction in their path every time they visit the kitchen.
As employees typically spent around 40 hours or more at work each week, making sure it’s a nice place to be should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Plus, nobody wants their desk neighbours to shoot them daggers every time they eat at their desk.
Just think of it this way; happy workmates, equals happy (work) life.
The bad news? If you’re not sure who ‘that guy’ is in your office, then we’re sorry to break it to you; it might just be you. The good news, on the other hand? There are some clear policies surrounding office etiquette, and they’re very simple to follow…
1. The smelly lunch lover
If it’s a common occurrence for you to eat at your desk, then it’s time to ditch the smelly lunches! No one wants to catch a whiff of eggs or fish every time they walk into the room (or every time they open the microwave to heat up their own lunch, for that matter). In fact, they’re probably just too polite to say anything. This is indeed part of the reason some shared office space providers don’t have them!
Our advice? Stick to non-offense salads, wraps and sandwiches, and leave last night’s fish pie at home.
2. The overzealous cruncher
Similarly, to the smelly lunch lover, close your mouth when you’re eating, and be wary of snacking on anything overly chewy or crunchy. When you need to focus on an important task, not much is more distracting than sitting next to an overzealous cruncher or gum chewer, so do bear that in mind when you pack your lunch.
Extra tips for lunch etiquette: it’s good to share! If you do bring in snacks, offer them around the room and trust us, the atmosphere will instantly improve. Others in the office will also be far more likely to return the favour, which is never a bad thing…
3. The messy desk invader
It’s a truth universally acknowledge that every office desk will accumulate a certain amount of clutter and mess over time (and this is especially true if you’re the ‘creative type’). However, you should make the effort to contain the mess so that it doesn’t invade your neighbour’s desk!
This can be easily done by reducing the number of documents you print, as well as storing the rest of your paper documents in any available files, folders, and drawers. There should be plenty around your office for this very need.
4. The seasoned plate stacker
As well as keeping your paper clutter under control, don’t get into the habit of leaving dirty dishes and food wrappers on your desk. As most of us know from experience (and don’t pretend that you don’t), this can quickly get out of hand until you end up with your own Leaning Tower of Dishes.
Don’t keep telling yourself that you’ll move them soon; take them to the kitchen as soon as you have a spare five minutes! Just remember that the ‘no piling’ rule should also apply to the kitchen, so make sure you wash them and put them away too.
Extra tips for kitchen and breakroom etiquette: While we’re on the subject of the kitchen, don’t leave soggy used teabags in the sink; just think of the poor person who will have to remove them at the end of the day!
5. The awkward chit-chatter
It’s likely we’ve all been in this situation; you go to the kitchen to make a coffee, start boiling the kettle, and someone from another department or office joins you. Cue the smiles and uncomfortable silence, or the awkward chit-chat that doesn’t go beyond a few sentences about the weather.
Now, we know that avoiding your daily caffeine fix (or fixes) isn’t an option, so our advice would be to keep it light and left-field. Stay away from discussing other co-workers, or tricky topics such as politics, religion, or money. Instead, stick to neutral topics, such as your weekend or holiday plans, and projects you’re working on (both in work and otherwise).
You should also remember to ask lots of questions; we may deny it, but most people love talking about themselves when given the chance.
Extra tip for chatting etiquette: Make the effort to learn people’s names and ask if you don’t know. If you pretend, you’ll just get caught out eventually!
6. The phone loudmouth
Most of us are guilty of talking too loudly on the phone; just listen to someone taking a call on a train and you’ll definitely know what we’re talking about.
As Debra Anderson of Anderson Tax & Consulting says:
“The person that doesn’t use headphones and puts their mobile phone on speaker to talk – argh!!!”
Thus, the lessons here are simple. Keep the volume to an acceptable level when you’re on the phone, and take any non-work related calls outside. Sure, they may be important, but not everyone wants to hear your conversion and it can cause a big distraction to other people who are working in the office!
7. The office chatterbox
It’s also a good idea good to know your moment when to chat; a.k.a. not to the person that’s working to a tight deadline and is clearly focused on their task. Sure, your holiday be may exciting, but it’s best to wait until they’re in the right frame of mind before striking up a conversion…
On a similar note, don’t be too loud when you’re having a natter in the communal kitchen or breakout area; again, you don’t want to distract others who are working.
8. The pacer/twirler/head bopper
When you get restless in the office, it’s normal to start fidgeting at your desk or wanting to get up and walk around. But whether you’re a head bopper, pen tapper, hair twirler or ‘phone-pacer’ (also known as someone who walks and talks while they’re on the phone), it’s likely that someone has noticed your habits and you’re probably causing a distraction.
Although it’s a difficult habit to break, there’s only so long that your desk neighbour will be able to put up with your near-constant tapping and jiggling before getting annoyed and asking you to stop (if they haven’t already of course).
To combat this, you’ll need to distract yourself; get up and make yourself a coffee, or go and stand by the watercooler when you’re feeling especially restless. Hey, you could even get up and go outside for some fresh air if it helps!
Extra tip for fidgeting etiquette: Keeping your desk clear of pens, staplers, and anything else you might want to fiddle with would also be a good call…
Now that you know the ‘unspoken rules of office etiquette’, it’s time to tell that guy about them by leaving this on their desk! We’re sure your workmates will thank you for it!