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Gym Rats and Other Open Office Dilemmas

by Mary Isner / January 24, 2019

It’s time for a few more friendly reminders from Miss Open Office Manners. In this installment, I discuss people approaching from behind, workplace meditation rooms, and lunchtime warriors. Enjoy.

Watching Your Back in the Open Office

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: The majority of my workday is spent doing focused work at my computer. The workstations in my open office face the wall. Multiple times a day, people approach me from the back and it is quite startling. This has negatively impacted my focus as I keep waiting for someone to sneak up behind me. Is there anything that can be done about this?

-- Tired of Having to Turn Around

Dear Tired: I completely understand your frustration. I, personally, startle very easily. I actually have a fairly simple solution for you: get a small mirror that you can attach to your monitor. That way, you can see what is behind you without having to always turn around. That should do the trick!

Getting Employees to Use the Meditation Room

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: My open office features a meditation room. The problem is that the room sits empty for extended periods of time. It seems like such a waste of space. Is there any way to get everyone interested in actually using the room?

-- It’s OK To Take a Break, Right?

Dear Take A Break: How nice! Meditation rooms are such a nice perk. They are a great place to get away for a little bit and recharge your batteries whether you choose to meditate or not. In a fast-paced work environment, it is especially important to take a short break to increase productivity and focus. Perhaps you could post a schedule on the door where people could sign up to use the room. That might create some buzz about the meditation room. Also, it is crucial that those in management positions support the use of the room and even use it themselves. That can go a long way. Perhaps people are afraid that they will be looked down upon for taking a break or some time away from work. I am sure, though, if my boss took some time out of the day to take a break, I would do the same. Wishing you a zen workplace!

Dealing With the Open Office Gym Rat

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I have several employees that like to work out during their lunch break. While I think this is great, one of them returns to our open office and… let’s just say… it’s very obvious what he did during his lunch. His shirt is soaked and he is all red-faced. Sometimes, he leaves his stinky sneakers at his workstation. It has created an unpleasant environment for whoever is unfortunate enough to have the workstation next to him that day. What can I do about this? Everyone is complaining to me.

-- Managing the Lunchtime Warriors

Dear Managing: First of all, let me say, I think that it’s great that some of your employees are working out during their lunch break. Research suggests that exercising during the workday enhances our ability to concentrate and stay focused. But, we have to figure out what to do about the open office sweater that you don’t wear. You are just going to have to be direct. I would approach everyone in your office, though, so he does not feel singled out and/or embarrassed. Let your employees know that you are fine with people hitting the gym during their breaks but everyone needs to return to work put back together. Tell them that it is ok to take the extra time getting cleaned up prior to returning to work. Also, make sure you provide lockers or give people the option of putting sweaty gym clothes and shoes in their cars. Those have no place in the open office! Good luck to 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, and for goodness sake, if you work out during your lunch break, make sure your clothes don’t give you away!




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.