Workplace Etiquette | Office Dos and Don’ts

Forging healthy relationships at work can be very impactful on your wellbeing, career development and ultimately quality of life. Read our tips to find out how to get it right.

The average full-time UK employee spends about 40 hours per week at work – that’s a very long time if you don’t get on with your co-workers, so office etiquette is important.

The last thing you want to do is fall out with colleagues – the people you share office space with – and it pays to know how to be professional at work and help create a comfortable and harmonious space.

Following these office etiquette tips should help you remain on good terms with your fellow employees and ensure a good, productive and harmonious office working environment.

What is office etiquette?

Simply put, office etiquette means the general manners or conventions expected of all employees in the workplace. 

Workplace etiquette for employees

1. Make sure you’re not distracting others 

It’s nice to build relationships with colleagues by showing interest in them and their life and having conversations, but make sure you don’t take this too far and distract others. Try and read the room and recognise if others are trying to get their heads down. 

2. Avoid idle gossip

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of chit-chat with your colleagues, but always be respectful to other people you work with. They don’t want their private matters to be discussed by colleagues who barely know them, particularly when the original facts become second or third hand hearsay.

3. Use your own mug

Some people get very protective about their mug – it’s a thing and that’s their prerogative. Use their favourite cup at your peril – it’s much better to bring your own or stick to the communal supplies. It just isn’t worth getting blacklisted over.

office etiquette uk

Unwritten rules of the office

4. Bring your own lunch

If someone has gone to the trouble of making their own lunch, make sure you’re not tempted to ‘borrow’ food. Be respectful of other’s belongings and don’t take anything not offered, unless it is clearly marked as communal. 

5. Use your mobile elsewhere

There’s no excuse to review the weekend with your friends, or plan your evening, on your mobile phone in the office. If you want to make or receive social calls, wait until your break or lunch hour and take your phone outside. Be respectful of others working.

Basic workplace etiquette rules

6. Turn up on time

If work starts at 9am and you keep trundling in at 9:15am, it’s clear you need to work on your timing. Everyone likes a lie-in, but the rest of us are able to wait until Saturday and it isn’t going to make you very popular when everyone is waiting for you.

7. Keep the moaning to a minimum

There will always be things you’re unhappy about in the work environment, be it the coffee, the heat or your uncomfortable chair. Try and ensure you’re not being a negative influence to everyone around you and keep the complaining to a minimum. Of course, if there is a serious issue, address it with your manager, but try and ensure you’re not a broken record moaning about trivial things. 

8. Don’t give them a political lecture

Whether it’s the Scottish referendum or the latest government foreign policy, discussing current affairs is one thing, but force-feeding your views and ideology is very much another. Even more, you may risk offending your colleagues on a personal level.

Basic etiquette and manners in office

9. Clean up after yourself

Keep you desk area clutter-free and wash you mugs after you use it. Workplace environment  can affect the mood and productivity of colleagues, making a tidy space all the more important.

10. Stay at home if you feel sick

Presenteeism is when an employee insists on coming to work, despite feeling unwell. A contagious illness like the flu can take out a whole workforce and taking time off work is completely normal. 

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