Top 10 Open Office Etiquette Rules For The Modern Workplace

workplace-etiquette-open-officeIt’s no secret that office environments have changed leaps and bounds over the last 20 years or so. One need only watch the movie “Office Space” followed by the movie “The Intern” to see just how much. Office cultures are under constant flux; with a growing interest in collaboration, influences from Silicon Valley, and many corporations opting for a flatter corporate structure, companies are knocking down walls and installing treadmill desks, collaboration rooms and nap spaces.

There’s no denying it – the open office environment has arrived and appears to be here to stay, at least for now. In many ways, this new environment offers a plethora of positive outcomes, such as higher transparency, more willingness to collaborate, and higher levels of accountability. However, this big shift can come with a host of negative consequences as well, namely employees not adjusting “adequately” to their new surroundings.

In this post, we’ve highlighted the top ten office etiquette rules that need to be taken into consideration for employees moving into a new office space. Here they are:

  1. Keep short visits, well, short

All too often, in this environment, there is an urge to simply yell out a question to a colleague across the room. This is rude and distracting to others! If you need to talk to a colleague, go to where they are. In addition, keep it short – there are others around, and your conversation can act as a distraction to them.

  1. No egg salad for lunch, please

Many business professionals these days do not take a proper lunch, but rather eat at their desk. That is fine, but remember it’s not just you that has to deal with your *fragrant* egg salad sandwich you brought…

  1. It may be your desk, but it’s not your desk

When you had your own office, you had photos, tchotchkes and bobble heads lining your desk. That was fine, but unfortunately it’s not anymore. Your workspace says a lot about you, and now that your privacy is not what it used to be, be sure to keep a clean, tidy, professional workspace.

  1. What if you need some privacy?

There will come times when you need to take a sensitive call or need to focus whole-heartedly on the task at hand. In an open-office environment, is that even possible?? Yes! Simply make (or buy) a sign that reads something like “Time to Focus – Please Try Again Later” and place on your desk or cubicle wall.

  1. A phone call with the president

You have a highly confidential phone call with an important client. Do you take it at your desk, with 7 people within earshot? Probably not a great idea. Perhaps it’s best you find a quiet, secluded area for your phone call. The same goes with confidential documents – do not leave them on your desk for all to see!

  1. Is your ringtone Lady Gaga’s newest release?

All of your devices should be on vibrate or silent, so as not to distract everyone else. If you love to listen to music when you work, that’s great, but wear your headphones!

  1. Avoid the urge to gossip

Gossiping at work, whether in an open-office environment or not, is never ok. However, the effects can be pronounced in this new open space. Keep your conversations within the office professional – save the gossiping for after hours (or never!).

  1. Clean up after yourself, Gordon Ramsey!

The shared kitchen space is great, but it’s exactly that – shared! Be sure to tidy up after yourself to the point that your presence there should be completely unnoticeable. The same goes for other public shared spaces around the office.

  1. I love Chanel No. 5 too, but…

Many people these days are allergic, or sensitive, to perfumes. Please be courteous and if you must wear perfume or cologne, keep it to one spritz. People should not be able to smell your scent unless they are standing directly beside you.

  1. If you’re sick, take a sick day

There is nothing worse than spending the whole day sitting beside, or across, from someone who’s coughing, sniffling and sneezing. If you’re not in the best shape, remember that in this new office environment, you will be in close proximity to many other people. Staying home will not make you appear weak, lazy or undedicated, but rather respectful towards your coworkers.

Moving to an open-office environment can be a big change for many people; not only a physical change, but a mental one as well. It comes with changes in privacy, etiquette and behaviour. It can be a tough transition, however if you take into account the above, the transition will be much smoother for you, as well as your coworkers!

For more information on workplace etiquette, check out our new set of courses offered in our private boardroom!

The New Job, Part 2: Helping a Colleague to Settle in

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The New Job, Part 2: Helping a Colleague Settle In

Last week, we blogged about the pressures of starting a new job and offered a few tips about putting your best foot forward in an unknown office environment. But what about the best practices when a colleague or employee is the new face in the company?

Those just starting off may feel under stress trying to find their place within the office culture. By offering your support, even through minor gestures, you are working to build solid relationships within your company – and you even may be fostering a connection that could prove strategic in the future.

Here are some methods for building great connections between colleagues, starting from the first day onward:

First Things First: Introductions

This may seem obvious, but if there is no organized introduction of the new staff member to the office, it can be easy to get distracted with work and completely miss a formal introduction! Take two minutes out of your routine to approach a new colleague and introduce yourself and your role within your organization. Learn about his or her work history and interests. Starting with an introduction beyond simply names will help the new colleague to get to know the staff faster.

Be Available to Help – But Don’t Overdo It

Make it clear to the new employee that you are available for questions and assistance if necessary. However, one of the best ways to learn is through experience, and in a new job we all learn from trial and error and on-the-spot training. So, don’t crowd your new colleague or impede on his or her learning process, but even knowing you are there to help will prove comforting to a new employee when an answer or process is not clear.

Extend an Invitation

Do you and your co-workers go out to dinner on Fridays, or do you occasionally leave the office for lunch off-site? If so, invite your new colleague along to one of these outings. Socializing with staff members in a more casual setting will help the new person to feel more comfortable in the office environment. If you don’t go out with colleagues on a regular basis, consider organizing a lunch date and provide an open invitation to the office as an opportunity to get to know your latest employee.

Office Culture and Environment

Helping a new colleague understand the office culture can be immensely useful as they are finding a place within the company. However, be wary of engaging in gossip; don’t share negative information about colleagues or behaviours in the office as a means to explain the office atmosphere.

Providing guidance on the office space will also be beneficial to a new member of the team. Help to orient, not only in the office itself but also in the surrounding area – such as where the best lunch spots are or the nearest bank and post office.

Mentorship: What’s in it for you

Reaching out to a new colleague from day one could develop into a mentor-mentee relationship. There are many benefits to becoming a mentor: as time passes, you could learn new things as your mentee shares his or her own perspective or an alternative generational outlook. This relationship will also allow you to refine and display your management skills, which may help you to advance in your company.

For more information: check out this great blog post from, which advises women in the workplace on how mentorship can boost a career.

Being “the new person” is an experience that everyone must undergo at some point. Make the most of this situation by lending a helping hand to a new colleague – and watch its benefits unfold for the both of you!

Workplace Etiquette Tips for Managers and Employees Every Professional Should Know

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If you’re part of the corporate culture and only do your job as per what your “job description” states that might be holding you back.

Whether you like it or not, common courtesy is still important in the workplace no matter what position you hold. In fact, proper workplace etiquette can be one of the deciding factors in getting ahead at work.

Why? Because the way you’re perceived by others matters. Bagging a promotion takes more than just how well you do your job. It relies on a number of different factors including how visible you are in the workplace, your executive presence, how much influence you have, the risks and responsibilities you’re willing to take on and the workplace etiquette you display.

According to a recent post in News Sentinel, learning the “corporate culture” in your office is important. Here are a few workplace etiquette tips the post offers:

•Be respectful of people at every level in the workplace. Position, money and power are not the hallmarks of a considerate person. It is the way you treat people that sets you apart. It takes a team to make an organization work. The people at the top would not be there without those working under them. There are no small jobs.

•Do your share; refill the paper in the fax machine and copier, make coffee if you have the last cup, bring the treats occasionally etc. Anticipate what may be needed and do more.

•When conflict arises, go to the source and try to work out the problem. Do not be accusatory, and be sure you listen to the other side. And if you are at fault, own your mistake. Control your temper. Angry people are less effective; walk away and cool off.

•Keep work problems at work. Discussing work problems outside of work may be a violation of confidentiality and looks and sounds bad in a public setting. You never know who may be listening. It can also undermine the integrity of the organization, and it is unprofessional.

•Be sure to keep confidences. It is admirable and it is important. If someone shares information that is sensitive or personal, keep it to yourself. Don’t become the office gossip.

•Have regular team meetings and ask everyone to participate in resolving an office problem. This can help get people on board and hopefully realize that everyone plays a part in making things going smoothly.

At Corporate Class Inc. we’ve helped many corporations instill workplace etiquette in the corporate environment. In our exclusive workplace etiquette workshop your people will learn:

  • The importance of understanding your corporate culture
  • To plan, lead and attend meetings with maximum productivity
  • To receive clients with class and courtesy
  • The rules of conduct when visiting a client
  • Tips to help you acknowledge the efforts and achievements of your colleagues
  • The unspoken rules of work

Contact Toronto etiquette expert, Diane Craig to find out more!