The Unwritten Rules of Office Etiquette

Reading Time : 5 min
 
Many people, throughout their work life, seek career help with things such as interview tips or how to move up the corporate ladder, but sometimes there are unwritten rules, of which you may not be aware that can keep you from reaching the top. 
 
Office etiquette is often learned through experience. But keep in mind that it’s often culture-dependent and its very rarely explicitly articulated when you are given career tips. So, how are you supposed to learn these unwritten rules? Here are some fundamental guidelines to help you on your way. 
 
Respect your peers’ space
While you may work in an open plan office environment, this doesn’t mean that the whole space is common territory. You should treat each person’s work space as private. Do not take things off your colleagues’ desks or from their drawers without their explicit prior consent. It is considered an invasion of privacy, or worse, could be viewed as theft. 
 
Consider your colleagues
Don’t constantly interrupt those around you with unnecessary chatter, noise and distractions. Most importantly, keep music low, even if you are using earphones. There are few things as irritating as the constant doof-doof emanating from a neighbour’s ears.
 
Keep the smelly stuff at home 
Smells travel. When packing your lunch and snacks be mindful of their smells. Fish, cauliflower and other strong smelling foods are better eaten under a tree outside or in the kitchen, away from your desk. Loud chomping at your desk can be equally distracting for your teammates. 
 
Be as tidy as possible 
Your workspace is not your home - it’s a professional space that you share with other people. Keep your desk and immediate surroundings as tidy as possible - another reason you should try not to eat at your desk. 
 
Loud ringtones are a no-no 
Put personal phones onto silent while you are at work. The constant blaring of ringtones are irritating and distracting for those around you. If you forget to put your phone on silent and your phone rings, turn it off immediately and politely apologise for the disruption. 
 
Don’t take personal calls at your desk
Avoid taking personal calls in a communal space - chatting to your friends about your weekend plans is hardly conducive to work. If you must make or receive a personal call, take a walk outside or in an area that is out of earshot. 
 
Keep the kitchen and bathrooms clean 
Keep communal spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms clean and tidy. If you spill or make a mess, do your colleagues the courtesy of cleaning it up properly. Your colleagues will respect you for the consideration – even if there is a cleaner on duty.
 
Office etiquettes is a pretty important part of organisational culture. If you are not mindful of this career advice, you may find that you struggle to fit in. And of one of your co-workers is under pressure, making them a cup of tea will be a sure way to form a friendship. Milk? No sugar?
 

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