Office Etiquette in a Post-Pandemic World

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Office Etiquette Post Pandemic World

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It goes without saying that the Covid pandemic led to an increase in the number of people working from home and shed a whole new light on the pros and cons of remote work. However, with the pandemic shutdown becoming further and further in the rear-view mirror and more and more people returning to the office, I’ve read an increasing number of articles about how office pet peeves are once again raising their ugly heads. And this is why we’re addressing the subject of office etiquette.

For me, office annoyances are pretty much non-existent. I’ve been working from home since I started my own business in 2011. I like my arrangement and am grateful my line of work affords me this setup. My greatest aggravations tend to stem from my furry family members who want to go out right when I’m in the middle of something important or take up residence on my computer keyboard. So, when I read an article by Alison Green, a workplace advice columnist, saying that complaints about workplace etiquette (especially those involving food and shared kitchen resources) were back after a short absence due to the pandemic, I wanted to learn more.

Office Etiquette Gone… South

While leaving dirty dishes in the sink, a red-sauce mess in the microwave, and rotting food in the refrigerator are all sources of irritation in the workplace, many office aggravations are not food focused. In a survey of 1,000 office workers, Explore Startups found the top 10 irritants to be the following, ranked from most annoying to least, along with the percentage of those offended by the issue:

  • Gossip and office politics – 80%
  • People taking others’ lunch – 78%
  • Inconsiderate co-workers (e.g., messes) – 76%
  • Constant interruptions – 75%
  • Loud and annoying ringtones – 72%
  • Poorly organized meetings – 71%
  • Overcrowded and noisy office spaces – 69%
  • Smelly food in the office – 68%
  • Inadequate temperature control – 62%
  • Forced birthday celebrations – 55%

Coming to work if you’re sick didn’t make this list but is a common complaint among officegoers.

I must admit that these grievances would bother me, too. And even though I work from home and don’t experience the daily aggravations that can come from being around other people, there are several things that tend to raise my blood pressure – cliques and folks who ask multiple people the same question to get the answer they want, to name a few.

What’s baffling to me is that so many companies and organizations spend time and resources on programs, projects, and incentives to improve employee morale, make workers feel appreciated, and provide avenues for employee health, wellness, and engagement. Still, these petty gripes boil to the surface. In fact, according to data from meQuilibrium, a digital platform that helps workers and employers know more about themselves and each other, one in four adults in the U.S. reports they have experienced rudeness from their co-workers. Maybe that’s not too surprising, but rudeness certainly makes for an unpleasant work environment and the potential for lower productivity.

What Can Employers Do About Encouraging Proper Office Etiquette?

So, what’s an employer to do? If you do a little research on how to address office etiquette problems, you’ll find several common-sense solutions:

  • Ensure open lines of communication.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Be attentive, courteous, and respectful.
  • Lead by example.
  • Nip unsavory employee behavior in the bud.
  • Establish rules for using and cleaning shared office spaces, such as kitchens and conference rooms.
  • Set and enforce boundaries.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Final Thoughts and a Few Ideas

In the end, to me, it comes down to practicing the Golden Rule: treat others as you would want to be treated. Maybe that’s oversimplifying things, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone took this age-old adage to heart and exercised it in their daily activities?

Oh, and one more thing. One of the best takeaways for encouraging people to clean up the kitchen came from a tip provided to Alison Green, whom I mentioned earlier. It’s simple but brilliant: “My office has a volunteer sign-up sheet for kitchen cleanup. Cleanup is on Fridays, and if it’s your week you get to leave for the day two hours early. The sign-up sheet is usually filled up three months out!”

Now that’s mindfulness!

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