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Dear Miss Open Office Manners, Part 3

by Mary Isner / November 10, 2017


Following up on the success of my second Miss Open Office Manners column, here are a few more letters and my responses. Enjoy.


How to Stop Employees From Coming into the Open Office when they Should Call Out Sick?


Dear Miss Open Office Manners: Oh my goodness…I don’t even know how to get your advice on this without completely grossing you out! I have quite the conundrum. I have a coworker in my open office who, first of all, is always sick and second of all, insists upon coming into the office when he is sick. It is so incredibly distracting, not to mention unhygienic. One day, it is constant sneezing and nose blowing; the next day it is “tummy troubles” and I will spare you the details. It is very difficult to get my work done while all this commotion is going on. Not to mention, this is an open office and we all share the space my colleague is coughing all over. What can I do?

-- Where Can I Get a Good Deal on Hospital Grade Disinfectant?!?!

Dear Looking for Hospital Grade Disinfectant: Well, that is just plain gross, not to mention bad manners. Maybe you should work with a surgical mask on and hope your constantly under the weather colleague gets the hint? Seriously, though, I would speak to the manager of your coworker and explain that while you appreciate his work ethic, it would be better off for all involved if he teleworked when he was feeling not so well. The manager could send around a non-finger pointing email that says something to the effect of, “It has come to my attention that the flu is going around. If you feel unwell at all, you have my permission to telework until you feel better.” Hopefully, that works out for you! In the meantime, consider investing in boatloads of hand sanitizer.


Dealing with the Coworker Who Ignores your Headphones



Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I work in an open office and the type of work I do requires a good amount of focus. When I need uninterrupted focus time, I put on my nice noise-cancelling headphones. The problem is that one of my fellow workers does not seem to understand that headphones are the international symbol for, “Don’t talk to me right now.” She starts talking to me and when she cannot get my attention, she starts waving her arms frantically until I take off my headphones and ask her what she needs. Of course, it’s never about something important…what can I do?

-- Just Leave Me Alone!

Dear Quoter of Michael Jackson Lyrics: Miss Open Office Manners had this same problem at the gym, believe it or not. I also thought that headphones were the ultimate “Do Not Disturb” sign, but several fellow gym-goers did not see it that way, and when I tried to pretend I did not hear them, they stood in front of me until I acknowledged them. I solved the gym problem by switching gyms. Short of you switching jobs, I would just try to speak candidly to your colleague. Explain to her that you need to concentrate to get your work done, and if you have your headphones on, you would prefer that she email you or instant message you with non-emergency matters. Hopefully that does the trick!


How to Get a Coworker’s Attention



Dear Miss Open Office Manners: In my open office, I work with a guy who is ignoring me. It seems he always has his headphones on. I cannot seem to get his attention when I want to discuss something. Half the time, I wind up waving my arms like a madwoman until I can get his ear. What gives?

-- Do I Need to Get a Whistle?

Dear Whistle Blower: Hmm…this story sounds familiar. Look, I am just going to give it to you straight. You are the one who is not following open office etiquette. When someone has on headphones, they are saying, “I need to focus right now,” which is a great nonverbal communication technique. Certainly, you can interrupt someone with headphones on in the event of an emergency, but, short of that, send the person an instant message or an email. That should work out much better for you.

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Feel free to let me know your open office etiquette pet peeves in the comments below. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and polite open office work environment! Never forget to mind your 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.