The 9-Step Guide to Mastering Office Etiquette

  • Future of Work
  • 15 Sep 2023
  • 6 min

Dirty dishes, forgotten glasses, or unlocked doors? How about cluttered desk spaces? Office etiquette is essential for founders, managers, and employees alike. Anybody who’s worked in an office knows the trials and tribulations of maintaining a clean, safe, functional, and tidy office space.

It goes beyond the kitchen, too: in every workplace, it’s not only clanging glasses and dishes that define work etiquette—it’s also about noise, scheduling meetings, and even shutting the lights off.  In a nutshell: office etiquette is a microcosm of the larger office environment, where good manners can make a world of difference. 

From the communal kitchen to shared spaces and beyond, here's a comprehensive guide to help you navigate office etiquette and foster a harmonious workplace. It'll cover the most essential tips and recommendations to make sure you master office etiquette. 

1. Keep all areas clean—and not just the kitchen

First off, the office's red thread: cleanliness. Just as in the office kitchen, cleanliness is a virtue in all shared spaces. Leaving used glasses and dishes strewn across your desk is akin to being the messy roommate of the office. So too is forgetting your glass in the meeting room. Embrace the concept of tidiness, rinse your dishes, and place them where they belong. Don’t forget: a clean workspace is a productive workspace.

Setting’s tip: Create a weekly schedule that assigns responsibilities to certain employees. It should vary continuously and include your whole team. 

2. Turn of all the lights 

Let's face it: we all have that one coworker who treats the office like a club, leaving lights blazing in empty rooms. Remember, energy conservation matters. Before leaving a room, turn off the lights if you're the last to exit. If you’re the last person in the office, always make sure that all lights are off—not just the main rooms, but also the kitchen, bathroom, and meeting room lights. Not only does this save electricity, but it also keeps the office eco-friendly and helps foster an appreciation for eco-initiatives in the office space. 

Setting’s tip: Consider also buying automatic light sensors across your office space. These sensors can help reduce energy consumption and lower your utility costs. Best of all? They’re sustainable too.

3. Pay attention to noise levels—and not just the sound of your own voice

Working in an open office layout means being mindful of noise levels, and it's not just about your voice. Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones if you're fond of cranking up your favorite tunes or engaging in lively phone conversations. Your colleagues will thank you for sparing them the symphony of distractions that can hinder their focus and productivity. Additionally, be conscious of other unexpected noises, like tapping feet or rattling objects, which can also disrupt the tranquil working environment.

Setting’s tip: Set up dedicated quiet hours where people have the tranquility to be productive on their own tasks. Alternatively, consider having a “quiet corner” in the office where people can retreat to truly focus. 

4. Be respectful when scheduling meetings 

It's tempting to schedule meetings at times that most benefit you—and only you. However, it may go without saying that you should always be mindful of your colleagues' calendars and commitments. Randomly booking meetings during their lunch hour or back-to-back sessions can disrupt their workflow and hinder productivity. Instead, consider sending out calendar invites with sufficient notice, allowing everyone to prepare and attend with ease. This thoughtful approach to scheduling ensures that everyone can contribute effectively, making your meetings more productive for all.

Setting’s tip: Make it a habit to schedule meetings with at least a 24-hour notice, avoiding last-minute disruptions to our colleagues' workdays. Also, set up recurring meetings with people you see regularly, whether in a one-to-one or jour-fixe fashion. 


5. Emailing is part of office etiquette too 

Email is the lifeblood of office communication, but it's important to use it judiciously. Having 100 unread emails in your inbox, many of which are either completely unnecessary or could have been easily answered via Slack, is never a pleasant sight. Avoid bombarding your coworkers with a constant barrage of emails, especially on non-urgent matters. Respect their time by consolidating information and opting for in-person or phone discussions when necessary.

Setting’s tip: Teach email etiquette during onboarding—it’s not always obvious to everybody! Cover topics like the appropriate use of subject lines, concise and clear language, and response times. Setting clear expectations at the start creates a culture of effective email communication that benefits everyone in the office.

6. Don’t hog the conference rooms 

Reserving conference rooms can be a competitive sport in some offices. To ensure fair access, adhere to the reservation system in place. For instance, if your office uses a scheduling app, make sure to book your slots reasonably and avoid monopolizing prime meeting hours. If you no longer need the room, cancel your reservation promptly to free it up for others. Imagine your colleague has an important client meeting and desperately needs the conference room you've booked but no longer require.

Setting’s tip: We can’t stress it enough: have a clear meeting calendar and agenda on Google Calendar or equivalent with meeting rooms enabled. Make it centralized and easy to access, as well as clear and easy to use. It should indicate all the available meeting rooms and who is using them. 

7. The communal fridge is also everybody’s responsibility 

Just as in the kitchen, the communal fridge is a shared resource. Be mindful of space and expiration dates. Don't leave perishable items to become science experiments. Consider labeling your food with dates and names to help keep order in the fridge ecosystem. And don’t even dare take a little nibble of your colleague’s leftover cake. 

Setting’s tip: Do a weekly fridge check to make sure everything is in order. And yes, perishable items—such as the two-week-old milk—should go without question. 

8. Make sustainability part of office etiquette 

In an era of environmental consciousness, adopting eco-friendly habits at work is a no-brainer. But what does that mean exactly? For one, it means recycling paper, plastic, and other materials diligently. It also means encouraging office-wide sustainability initiatives and, if possible, contributing to making the workspace more environmentally responsible. Consider using reusable water bottles and coffee cups, reducing energy consumption, and supporting initiatives like carpooling or biking to work to further reduce your carbon footprint. Everybody can play their part. 

Setting’s tip: Have a sustainability officer who monitors progress and establishes weekly goals and long-term targets. Or, have a sustainability challenge that inspires everyone to play their part!


9. Your untidy desk affects others too 

Imagine trying to work on a project together, and you can't find the necessary documents amidst the chaos of your cluttered desk. A cluttered desk can be a major source of irritation for your colleagues, as it not only kills the vibe but can also make it challenging to collaborate effectively. Additionally, excessive clutter on your desk can hinder your own productivity, as it creates unnecessary distractions and mental clutter. Consider adopting a minimalist approach to your desk décor—fewer knick-knacks and more functional items—to create an environment that fosters focus and professionalism. Your colleagues will appreciate your efforts, and you'll likely find that you work more efficiently when your workspace is tidy and well-organized.

Setting’s tip: Make it easy for employees to clean their desks by providing them with cleaning supplies and weekly reminders. Do it as a team-building exercise.

Creating great company culture through office etiquette

Ultimately, mastering office etiquette means creating and maintaining the perfect space for you and your colleagues. It transcends the kitchen and extends to all facets of the workplace. By embracing these principles of consideration, you contribute to a more harmonious and productive office atmosphere. As you go about your daily work routine, keep in mind the impact of your actions on those around you. Together, we can create a workspace where everyone feels respected, valued, and appreciated.

Need some office advice? Our experts are here to help! Whether you need help on office etiquette or kitchen design, we've got you covered.

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