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Open Office Antics Getting You Down? Follow These Tips

by Mary Isner / September 20, 2018

 It’s time again for a few more friendly reminders from Miss Open Office Manners. In this installment, I discuss open office cleanliness, the etiquette of conducting a conference call in the open office, and how the open office can impact the chain of command. Enjoy.

When in Doubt, Wipe it Down!

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I have worked in an open office for over a year now. I love the collaboration an open office allows and feel like the quality of my work product has improved as a result. However, that is not why I am writing to you. There is one thing that drives me absolutely crazy in my open office! We have disinfecting wipes that are supposed to be kept on each workstation to wipe down everything before you leave. I have countless times watched people leave for the day and…gasp…not wipe down the workstation!! Not to mention, when they do, they leave the empty wipe container at the workstation and do not replace it with a new one from the nearby supply closet. I think this is just rude…and gross…yuck. What’s a guy to do?

-- Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Get the Flu

Dear Flu Avoider: It sounds like your workplace is going out of their way to keep germs at bay, but some of your coworkers - not so much! When an open office is a new thing, people are not in the habit of wiping down workstations and they probably don’t mean to be rude. This new practice may take some getting used to as most people aren’t used to sharing workstations. But with time and training, I am sure your coworkers will become clean freaks in no time! One suggestion that is not overly obtrusive is perhaps having stickers made that could be placed on the wipe containers with a friendly reminder to wipe down your workstation and equipment after use, and to replace the container when it is empty. Sometimes just a simple reminder like that just might do the trick. Good luck, and here’s to your health!

Being Forced to Listen to Others’ Conference Calls

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: What is the deal with people that sit at open workstations and dial into conference calls? Do they not understand that everyone can hear the dial tone followed by the dialing and the, “Do we have Bob? I think we lost Bob.” I mean, I am trying to get some work done over here!!! So annoying…do you have any ideas?

-- Can You Please Shut Up Already?!

Dear SU: First of all, I would speak to whoever is in charge and express your frustrations in a polite way. Perhaps they are not even aware that this is happening. Either way, these people need to be pointed in the direction of your open office’s phone booths. I mean, that is exactly what they are there for. There is also the issue that conference calls should be private and not open for everyone else in the office to hear. So, along with heading to the phone booth, perhaps they need a reminder to take the call off speaker. In the meantime, rather than being forced to listen to someone else’s conference call, I would see if you can head over to a getaway booth. That may help you get some work done. Wishing you productivity, peace, and quiet!

Establishing an Open Office Chain of Command

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I am a fairly high-level manager for a government agency. My one complaint about the open office is that it really breaks the chain of command. I find that people come directly to me to ask questions instead of going to my staff. I do have military service in my background and I will admit that I am fond of the chain of command. While I don’t want to be rude, I do not have time to put out all the smaller fires when I have so many large ones to tend to. What do you recommend?

-- On Top of The Chain

Dear On Top: I understand your frustration. On one hand, this is one of the features of the open office: to break down barriers so that collaboration can happen on many levels. On the other hand, you have to be able to get your job done and the only way this can happen is to have your staff handle some of the smaller-picture items. I would suggest when someone comes to you with a question that one of your staff can handle, simply direct them to the appropriate staff member. I imagine if this happens once or twice, you will be able to re-establish a slightly less formal chain of command. Hopefully, that does the trick.

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.