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A large majority of the country, to some extent, has spent the last year working from home. Although we connect with our colleagues day-to-day via Zoom, Teams and messaging services like Slack, we’re excited to get back to the office for the banter that can only come from working in the office together. However, it is sure to be a massive shock to the system, certainly at first as we’ve become so accustomed to our routines and space. So, a revision of office etiquette (and habits) can help prepare you when heading back into the office. 

The key thing when it comes to any office is to understand the culture of the place you work.  Some of our points in our guide to office etiquette can be used as guidelines, more than specific rules. Each organisation and team will have its own individual ways of operating and it’s a culture often driven by its people rather than management.

Behaviour in the office

Office etiquette

Generally, office behaviour will be driven by internal policies or documented HR procedures that will make it clear what the dos and don’ts are in your office. But, there may be some unwritten rules to be aware of:

Timekeeping

This is not just about making sure you’re on time for your job, but showing respect for your colleagues.  If you are late, apologize to everyone affected and explain.

Problems and solutions

A problem shared is a problem halved.  However, don’t just be seen as the office complainer.  Make sure you share ideas on how to fix things, or at least make sure you get stuck in to help other with their problems.

Noise

Many offices these days are open plan, and even if they’re not, it won’t be appreciated if you make lots of noise and generally disrupt others while they are working.  Find somewhere private to work if you need to make noise, or at the very least make those around you aware that you are conscious of the impact you’re having on them- maybe make a round of drinks to soften the effect.

Tidy up

Some offices encourage personalisation of work spaces, whilst others encourage clear desk policies for security reasons. The key thing to remember is regardless of policy, it’s not an excuse to be messy.

Sickness

Lots of people feel under pressure to come to work sick, and there are many studies that show the negative effects and impact of lost man-hours due to people coming in and sharing their germs. Just think about how you really feel, and even if you want to work, maybe consider how you could do it without impacting others, like working from home. 

Use of jargon/language

Everyone has a starting point where all those acronyms and confusing terminology make the working environment feel alien. So be conscious when you start to feel comfortable with those terms and of overusing them.

Technology

Technology and personal use within the office is something that more and more organisations are writing into their policies. If you’re unsure, you’re better off asking the question so you’re clear from the outset. However, most organisations offer some leeway into using your phone or office equipment for personal use.

Mobile phones

If you have it on the desk, turn it over so you’re unable to see and be distracted by a dancing screen. If the policy allows you to have the volume on, keep the sound low and turn notifications off. You shouldn’t take every call that comes through either. However, if a family member, friend, or childminder, that knows your working hours, is trying to get hold of you, you should be able to take the call,

Use of social media

Social media is the best. We love connecting with others and building our network on Facebook or Twitter, and LinkedIn is especially important in building a career.  However, it also means people can see aspects of your personal life which might conflict with your professional image. Just be aware of how you use social media and conduct yourself on it. There have been many cases where people have lost their jobs because of offensive and discriminatory behaviour that can look bad on an organisation.

Headphones

Some offices have no problem with the use of headphones, particularly when working on an intense project or piece of work.  However, try to be aware of being the hobbit in the corner no-one wants to talk to, or find approachable because they sit with the headphones blaring and refusing to take them off.

Excessive use of email

Ever get annoyed when someone sends you an email when they are sat three feet away rather than coming to talk.  Yeah.  That.  You do that.  We ALL do that. Just try to be more aware of it and keep it to a minimum. 

Relationships

Organisations like to build communities. You spend a significant period of your time with those that you work with so be open to those around you.

Gossip

Gossip is an office killer. It can make employees withdrawn, reduce productivity and heighten stress. Don’t be an office gossip. If an employee is opening up to you, keep that to yourself. Likewise, open up with your colleagues and use safe subjects to discuss, like weekend plans.

Work/life balance

It’s pretty difficult to get right but imperative that you try. When you’re faced with big projects, demanding workloads, or tight deadlines it can be soul-sucking. Your colleagues are likely to be experiencing it too. If it impacts too much, talk to your bosses and team and come up with some solutions to help reinstate a balance.

Parties/drinking when out with your colleagues and bosses 

A work social isn’t a free pass to behave however you like. In fact, it’s imperative that you remain lucid and conscientious on a night out. How you conduct yourself outside of the office, wherever it may be, is a reflection on the company you work for. You don’t want any reason to be called into the office on Monday morning.

Kitchen

Be respectful of shared spaces. Smells, dirty utensils, and general mess can be off-putting and cause friction.

Mugs

If someone brings in their own mug, don’t use it. It’s usually quite obvious what is a personal mug and what isn’t. A plain mug and you’re usually safe to use it. Though, if you’re unsure, always check first. If you take a liking to a colleague’s mug, ask where they got it from and get one for yourself but keep it at home.

Lunch

If you share a fridge and store your lunch, snacks and shopping in there, be mindful that you clear it out frequently. No-one wants to pull out your mouldy sandwiches or be offended by rotting smells when they open the door.

Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to office etiquette? We’d love to hear from you, please leave us a comment below.

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