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10 Rules to Open Office Etiquette by Miss Office Manners

by Mary Isner / April 25, 2019

It is hard to believe that this is the tenth installment of Miss Open Office Manners. In honor of such a momentous occasion, I will provide you, dear reader, with my ten rules to open office etiquette. Enjoy.

1. Pretend the open office has doors

Say what? Yes, pretend your open office has doors. In other words, be considerate of your colleagues. Don’t just barge in to your coworker’s area without first asking if they have time to talk. Also, try to avoid sneaking up behind people, which can be startling.

2. Hush, keep it down now, voices carry

“Voices Carry” is not only one of my favorite songs from the 80s, it is also a very important thing to keep in mind in the open office. No one who is trying to get work done wants to listen to your conversation. Look, Miss Open Office Manners is the first to admit that her voice is louder than most. When I worked in an open office, I had to reduce my volume to a whisper, which is equivalent to the conversational volume of a normal person. Anyway, my point is – be mindful of your volume in an open office.

3. Clean up after yourself

Repeat after me, “I will always clean up after myself in my open office.” This rule is so important. Throw away your trash and wipe down your area when you leave for the day. No one wants to start their workday by cleaning up after you from the day before, so throw that paper coffee cup in the recycle bin.

4. Use headphones

Headphones are a must if you work in an open office and like to listen to music. They are also a subtle way of saying, “Please do not disturb me right now.” Plus, noise-canceling headphones are a great way to drown out your noisy open office neighbors who did not follow rule #2 above.

5. Hold meetings in actual meeting areas

Do not meet with your colleagues anywhere in the open office that is not designed for, ahem, meetings. I know that seems like common sense, but I cannot tell you how many times people do not follow this rule. It is extremely disruptive to your open office neighbors who are trying to get their actual work done. Plus, it just makes you look inconsiderate of your coworkers and I know you don’t want that!

6. Stay home if you are sick

This is important for any type of office, but it is especially important when you are working within the close confines of an open office. Your coworkers do not want to be exposed to your germs. Enough said.

7. Refrain from being a nosy neighbor

When working in an open office, do your best to not eavesdrop on the phone calls or conversations of your coworkers. Also, do not stare at what is on their screen. Said a different way, mind your own business!

8. Respect others’ personal space

I spoke about this in a previous blog: don’t be an open office space invader! Even if you are sharing a work table, you must keep your papers, coffee cup, arms, and everything else to yourself. Give everyone their own little space.

Heavy perfume in the office

Don't drown the office in your perfume fumes

9. Ixnay on the heavy perfumes

Remember, not everyone has the same preferences as you and many people have allergies to certain scents. When you are working in an office without walls, scents can carry and I promise you that your coworkers are not interested in smelling your cologne all day while they are working.

10. Do not eat at your desk

Everyone gets busy and I know how easy it can be to eat lunch at your desk. But, for two reasons, this is a bad idea. First, you don’t want to risk ruining expensive computers and the like by spilling food on them. Second, as detailed in #9 above, scents carry in the open office. So, head to your break room, kitchen, or even better, go outside if the weather is nice.

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and polite open office work environment! Never forget to mind your manners, and here’s to ten more installments of Miss Open Office Manners!

Tags: Open Office Design

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Mary Isner

Mary Isner

Mary has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked as a facility planning analyst for Fentress since 2003. In her free time, she enjoys baking, decorating, and spending time with her family.