I’ve worked in a fair few offices. Invariably I’ve been surrounded by the same people, day in and day out. Office etiquette is essential in maintaining a nice healthy atmosphere to help people work in peace and productively. Here is a list of the common offenders to upsetting peoples office karma.
Everyone has different tastes in music. But even then there’s a time for some background music to be played and the office isn’t it. Have you ever been somewhere and heard someone play music from their car too loud? Even if it’s a song you like, you invariably think ‘What an idiot’ and your inner peace is shattered for a little while. It’s the same at the office. If you want to listen to music then use headphones at a volume where you can hear people call your name. People having to shout, wave, dance and throw items to get your attention ruins the concentration of everyone around.
These are often quite subconscious but if you’ve ever caught yourself picking your nose, coughing without covering your mouth, scratching where you shouldn’t, chewing gum vacantly or biting your nails then someone is going to be annoyed and lose concentration. If you see someone doing it and you feel uncomfortable or distracted then politely mention it WHEN NO-ONE IS AROUND. People will apologise and say ‘Yeah, my wife tells me that all the time’ if you tell them alone. They’ll get awkward and defensive if made to apologise publicly.
Slightly related is food. If you’re in an environment where people eat at their desks then there’s a certain etiquette here too. Try not to eat smelly foods. Even sandwiches with spicy flavours and cheese can be off-putting. People are often repulsed by the smell of bananas (I know, strange huh?) to the point of distraction. When you’re eating then try to do it quietly. This can be hard with hard fruits such as apples or pears but at least don’t slurp the juices. This is probably worse than eating with your mouth open. When you finish your meal, take any plates away before the smell of what was on them becomes a feature of the office for the afternoon
You do not need your phone on anything other than vibrate. If you go away from your desk then take your phone with you. If your phone rings and you aren’t around then people have to endure the entirety of whatever ring tone you happen to have. If this is something loud then all concentration will be lost for everyone within 25 metres while there is a debate on whether to answer it. If you come back and the phone is gone, look in your drawers. A colleague may have ‘helpfully’ hidden the noise as a not-too-subtle hint!
In general women like to talk about what they do outside of work. Men as a rule don’t. Depending on the constitution of your office will depend on the etiquette here. If you are in a predominantly female office then you may need to be prepared to share what you did last night. If you’re uncomfortable with this then just say what you ate. It’s always a satisfactory answer and if you’re lucky the conversation will swiftly move on to something else before you have to participate further. Alternatively if you’re in a predominantly male office then knowing all the details of what your friends are doing will do nothing but serve to distract.
Work is not a fashion show. There are no prizes for best dressed. There are also no tips for dressing provocatively. There is always a uniform at work. Even in a casual workplace, there’s a kind of uniform. In my office right now we’re a group of developers and designers. Our uniform is jeans, fashionable/geeky t-shirt or shirt. If you stand out too much or, if you’re lucky enough, been blessed with an attractive figure and wear something revealing then it’s just going to upset colleagues.
I hope this guide helps, especially if you’re new to working in the office workplace.