A Guide to Office Etiquette


Written by Tess D'Orsi

November 9, 2018

Sharing an office space has its perks, but it is not always smiles, handshakes, and friendly conversation. There are numerous opportunities to annoy, disrupt, and distract coworkers under the circumstances, so in order to be respectable in the office one must be cognizant of how they are conducting themselves. Consider four senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch when making decisions in your open-air office to avoid disturbing those around you.


Nobody wants to share an office space with someone who can't sit still for 5 minutes. Getting up from your desk often can be distracting to those around you. Likewise, any elaborate and dramatic movements may catch coworkers eyes, even for a moment, diverging their attention and focus. Once in a while it is fine to walk around the office but aim to minimize unnecessary activity to refrain from distracting those you share your office with.


Just as erratic movement can be distracting, loud or irritating sounds can be as well. Of course each office and its atmosphere is different so be sure to act within the limits of yours. If your line of work requires you to use your computer you may want to make sure that your sound settings are set to a reasonable volume or simply use headphones so that others are unable to hear. Additionally, if you spend a lot of time speaking on the phone be aware of the level of your voice or opt for a private room to have your conversation in. Anything from tapping on your desk to eating a snack loudly can irritate coworkers so be sure to think about the environment you work in and whether the volume of your activity is acceptable.


Unpleasant odors are never fun to be around, especially when you are forced to conduct focused work in the presence of them. Whether it be a bodily stench or the smell of food you decided to bring to the office, be aware of what you are subjecting the rest of the office to. Nobody wants to hold their breath on the job, so be sure to practice good hygiene and choose odorless food to bring to the office for the sake of your coworkers!


As far as the “touch” sense goes, respect others’ belongings and spaces. When it comes to physical objects refrain from borrowing things without asking (even if it is just a pen) or re-organizing another's’ possessions without permission. Keep your own work area tidy and confined to the personal space you were given so that materials are not mixed or lost. A messy work space can also be distracting, so be sure to work towards a neat work space.


What office etiquette boils down to is awareness. Think about how your actions and decisions may be affecting those around you in the office. Keep in mind the four senses discussed and try your best to contribute to a good working environment for everybody.