Here are the top 100 office etiquette rules everyone should follow, regardless of their office environment.
Use of Email
Other Coworkers’ Workspaces
1. Always Flush
You should always flush whether you are going for a number one or a number two.
2. Wash Your Hands after You Use the Bathroom
Hygiene has always been important, but after of COVID-19, regular handwashing became even more important to maintaining a safe working environment for all. It is especially important to wash your hands after using the bathroom.
3. Use Sanitizer
Since the pandemic, many people have been worried about cleanliness. Before touching a shared space or something of your coworker, pump a few squirts of sanitizer onto your hands in front of them to make them feel comfortable. You can use either the sanitizer provided to you by the company or your own. If it is your own, make sure it does not have a strange added fragrance.
4. Shower Every Morning
Avoid the unpleasant smell of body odor in the office by showering every morning. Nobody likes a bad-smelling coworker. Your organization likely has a company hygiene policy, as detailed in your employee handbook. Review hygiene policies periodically and ensure you follow them to the letter.
5. Wear Deodorant
Especially in summer, wearing deodorant can make you a more pleasant colleague to be around. Avoid using excessive amounts because it can trigger people’s allergies.
6. Pop a Breath Mint or Chew Gum
Keep some breath mints to hand for use before work and after lunch. Bad breath after a heavy lunch can leave a poor impression on clients and colleagues. If you chose to chew gum instead, make sure to chew with your mouth closed.
7. Leave the Perfume or Cologne at Home
Everyone has different tastes. Leave the strong fragrances at home. Scents can waft quickly, and not everyone may have the same tolerance levels. Some people are allergic to these fragrances, which could cause a disaster.
8. Do Your Share
Pull your share of the load by ensuring you get your job done before socializing and slowing down. Leading by example sends a positive message to others.
9. Speak and Laugh Softly
Whether speaking to another colleague or on the phone, follow workplace etiquette by lowering your voice. Speaking softly doesn’t have to mean whispering or not speaking clearly. Also, make sure to keep your laugh at a reasonable decibel level.
10. Find a Private Place for Personal Calls
Personal calls happen. If you need to take that call, make sure you do it in a private location. Keep your business confidential. No matter what, do not let anyone hear you being rude or angry on the phone.
11. Lower Your Phone Voice
People often underestimate how loud they’re speaking on the phone. Practice lowering your voice when making calls to avoid bothering others. This is especially important if you have a shared office.
12. Be Kind
The easiest way to leave a good impression on bosses, colleagues, and potential business partners is just to be kind. Make every effort to be kind, and you can’t go wrong. This includes making sure that your jokes or funny emails that you send to your colleagues aren’t offensive or hurtful.
13. Make Eye Contact When Talking to Others
Making eye contact shows others that you are interested in what they say. Open body language and gentle eye contact demonstrate active listening.
14. Don’t Come to Work Sick
You may feel fine, but colds and coughs can infect an entire office quickly. It is common sense to call in sick when you are under the weather, especially working in an open-plan space.
15. Keep to Your Work Hours
Sneaking out 20 minutes before 5 pm on a Friday may not impact your productivity, but it does leave a bad taste in everybody else’s mouth. One of the unwritten rules of the office is never to leave early.
16. Never Use Curse Words
Profanity may be okay for a casual chat between good friends, but it has no place in the office or the meeting room. Moderating your language is the pillar of good etiquette and professionalism.
17. Dress Appropriately at Work
Obey the company’s dress code. Don’t overdress or underdress to avoid standing out. The same goes for work functions or any other type of outing your organization may be holding. Make sure you don’t look like you are dressed for clubbing, as you will appear unprofessional.
18. Dress Appropriately at Home and in Public
Home offices can often lead to slipping standards. Dress for success even at home so that you can give off the right first impression if an urgent video call occurs. If you make this a practice, then on the odd occasion that you run into a colleague when you are out in public, you won’t be embarrassed by your attire.
19. Avoid Fiddling During Work Hours
Refrain from using your cell phone during work time. It ruins productivity and may even encourage your boss to make restrictive personal cell phone rules. Also, become aware of and stop any noisy habits you may have, such as tapping your toes, etc.
20. Don’t Talk Politics, Sex, Money or Religion
Divisive topics can easily disrupt the company culture by creating disharmony and discord. Stay away from divisive topics because you never know who you may be inadvertently offending.
21. Stamp Out Office Gossip
You may not be able to stop others from gossiping about their coworkers, but you can take a stand by never engaging in it. Starve it of oxygen from day one.
22. Encourage Empathy in the Workplace
Empathy is part of being an emotionally intelligent professional. Make sure your team works together more efficiently by encouraging a culture of empathy and sensitivity toward others.
23. Aim to Defuse Conflict
Operate a zero-tolerance policy toward disputes. Intervene where you can, and report any instance of workplace bullying or abuse.
24. Include Everyone Socially
Whether at the water cooler or gathering around the microwave, make an effort to make everyone feel included. Doing so avoids the risk of creating cliques within the office.
25. Praise Publicly and Criticize Privately
Calling someone out or telling an embarrassing story creates a toxic office culture. If you would not like to be on the receiving end of a statement, avoid saying it. Cool it on the criticism unless you’re in a position of authority. If you are in the role of having to provide critiques, frame it positively with a view to improvement.
26. Respect Space
Operate using a policy of personal space within the work environment. Keep your items in your own space and avoid crowding others. Maintain a respectful distance of a few feet at all times.
27. Smile More
Work can be stressful, but a smile can be a good thing that raises everybody’s spirits, whether talking to your best friend or in close quarters with a group of fellow workers.
28. Be Truthful
Instill trust in everyone you work with by being truthful. Learn how to frame brutal honesty into more digestible, positive feedback. Honesty with others engenders honesty towards yourself.
29. Don’t Play Office Politics
Office politics can derail even the most profitable business. Refusing to engage helps to create a more positive work environment and lowers the risk of conflict.
30. Speak to Everybody with Respect
Show everyone the same level of respect, whether they are above or below you on the corporate ladder.
31. Apologize More
Don’t be afraid to admit a personal failure. People appreciate others who own up to their own mistakes. Apologize if you make a social misstep or fail to follow through on a promise.
32. Keep Your Space When Talking with Others
Nobody likes it when their personal space is invaded. Give colleagues enough personal space by not standing or sitting too close.
33. No Hanky Panky in the Office
Office affairs are risky. Intimate activity in the office is worse.
Use of Email
34. Keep Email Communications Short
Email can quickly suck up an entire afternoon. Keep emails succinct, and ensure they include all the information required for a particular subject.
35. Avoid the Email Chain Trap
Email chains can quickly get out of control. Only CC in those who absolutely need to be part of a chain. Reducing unimportant communications is an excellent way of avoiding distractions.
36. Use a Clear Email Subject Line
Providing clarity in an email ensures that busy colleagues can prioritize their inboxes. Giving them an idea of the subject tells them whether they need to reply now or whether it can wait.
37. Minimize Jargon and Acronyms
Jargon may be a big part of your industry, but it can quickly become a stumbling block for communication. Minimize the use of jargon and use clear, understandable language.
38. Carefully Select Who Is Included in the Email
If there are several people included in the email and your response is appropriate for everyone, make sure to hit “reply all” instead of just “reply” so everyone can be in the loop. If you need a sidebar, do not include everyone. Be careful about included new people in an email that were not in a previous email strain, especially if those new additions are senior, as it could look like you are tattling on someone and want the boss to see the evidence in the email chain.
39. Don’t Touch Other People’s Food
If something is not yours, never take it. It is not okay to borrow a bit of milk for your coffee from someone else’s milk jug in the refrigerator. Countless office disputes have occurred due to stolen food in the staff refrigerator.
40. Label Your Food
Avoid confusion by carefully labeling your food. Use a black marker pen to avoid someone confusing their lunchbox with yours. This will also help the person cleaning up the refrigerator periodically to return reusable containers back to their owners.
41. Take Up Minimal Refrigerator Space
Use only the space you need in the break room. Maintaining a small amount of personal space ensures everyone has space for their lunches.
42. Clean Spills Fast
Keep the refrigerator clean by removing any spills fast. You can also prevent problems in the first place by investing in a leak-proof container.
43. Don’t Bring Stinky Food to Work
Fish and smelly fruit can quickly lead to wrinkled noses. Office etiquette rules dictate that food should smell neutral. Also, never leave any open containers in the refrigerator.
44. Don’t Burn Your Popcorn
Stand near the microwave and watch your popcorn pop. The smell of burnt popcorn is terrible and lingers far and wide throughout office space.
45. Wash Your Cups Daily
Whether it is your own cup or a cup (or other kitchenware) provided by the company, don’t leave dirty dishes on the sink counter or in the sink. Show proper etiquette by washing your cup and replacing it daily, or rinsing it and putting it in the dishwasher.
46. Remove Food Leftovers ASAP
Food leftovers can quickly cause a foul odor in any office. It can also encourage bacteria to grow, compromising people’s health.
47. Dispose of Food Packaging Immediately
Food packaging is a haven for bacterial growth. Those bad smells are bacteria growing and emitting chemical by-products. Clean up crumbs and discarded food packaging when you are finished.
48. Clean Up Your Mess in the Microwave
Microwaves can quickly turn into a biohazard. Get into the habit of wiping up your mess in the microwave to ensure everyone has a clean place to heat their food.
49. Avoid Hogging the Kitchen or Microwave
Kitchens and microwaves rarely have enough capacity for everybody. Do what you need to do and leave room for the next person to make coffee or heat their food.
50. Replace the Coffee Pot
If you took the last of the coffee, refill the pot. Never walk away, leaving someone else to take care of it. It’s simply a way to show respect. Everyone has different coffee tastes, but everyone can enjoy regular coffee so avoid any strange flavors or decaf. Make an effort to please everyone. If your office has a Keurig or a machine to make individual cups of coffee, empty the bin if it is full and let someone know when a flavor drawer is empty.
51. Never Use Somebody Else’s Mug
Even if your employer has provided the mugs, it will quickly become apparent that everyone has “their” cup. Using somebody else’s mug is an easy way to disrespect someone.
52. Avoid Taking Calls in Shared Spaces
Answering your cell phone in the bathroom or breakroom is rude and disrespectful. Excuse yourself, so nobody has to listen to your calls about your personal life.
53. Help Keep Shared Spaces Clean
It’s always a good idea to clean up office messes whenever you come across them. A clean workplace is a happy workplace for all.
54. Limit Bathroom Time
A professional image is built on hard work and respect. Nothing frustrates coworkers like colleagues who take forever in the bathroom. Do your business and only your business.
55. Keep the Bathroom Dry
Accidents happen. Whether around the sink or the toilet, give your surrounding area a quick wipe.
56. Move Activity from the Hallways
Casual conversations and impromptu meetings can be distracting to all. Aim to move your activity away from any hallways or corridors within the office.
57. Greet Others in Shared Spaces
Regardless of title or seniority, acknowledge the presence of others as you pass them in the hallway or see them in the kitchen.
58. Park Straight
Make sure your car has been properly lined up in the office parking lot. Taking up two spaces is disrespectful to your colleagues.
59. Check Your Headphone Volume
Sound can leak out of headphones. Take them off and check to see how much sound is leaking out. Alternatively, invest in a premium pair of headphones to prevent this problem.
60. Leave Your Office Door Open
A closed office door indicates you may be in a business meeting, taking a personal call, or otherwise unavailable. Leaving it closed permanently sends the wrong message about being an open office.
61. Stand and Shake
When someone walks into a room, stand up and shake their hands. Greeting everyone properly is a sign of respect and starts the relationship on the right foot.
62. Maintain a Tidy Office
Go through the office at the end of your shift and keep everything tidy. It’ll help you stay organized and reduce the chances of losing important documents. It also sends passive encouragement for others to join in.
63. Close Doors Softly
Letting a door slam shut can make people jittery quickly. Mitigate the risk of creating an unnecessary distraction by closing office doors softly.
64. Personal Call? Keep the Door Closed
The rules of business etiquette are that if you’re taking a personal call or using the speakerphone, the office door remains closed.
65. Decorate Your Office with a Few Personal Items
The best practice is to have a framed photograph and a few personal items on your desk. You shouldn’t go overboard. Avoid posters and other decorations that may be offensive to people.
Other Coworkers’ Workspaces
66. Knock First
Workplace cubicles may not have doors but knocking on the wall first shows the same respect you would offer your boss before entering his office. Never barge into someone’s office if the door is closed. Knock on the door and wait for the other person to respond before opening it.
67. Stop Using Sign Language
Using sign language to get an employee’s attention while on the phone is annoying and distracting. Wait for someone to finish what they’re doing before engaging.
68. Avoid Looking Over the Cubicle Wall (or Peering through the Glass Wall)
Nobody likes to be surprised by a coworker popping over the cubicle wall for a chat. Use the cubicle entrance like you would with any office.
69. Keep Visits Short
Outsiders may be welcome within a professional setting but keeping clients and other associates longer than necessary is a major faux pas in the business world, especially in an open office.
70. Ask if Someone Wants the Door Open or Closed
Even if you already know the answer, whenever leaving someone’s private office, ask if they would like the door open or closed. It shows respect and demonstrates that you care about the other person’s preferences.
71. Respect Other People’s Work
Within an open office, follow rules of etiquette by respecting the fact others have work to do. Just because they are available doesn’t mean they are available to talk.
72. Be Punctual
Punctuality shows respect. Punctuality doesn’t mean showing up at the start time of the meeting. It means being five or so minutes early, and seated with pen and paper ready for the meeting to start. If you are going to be late, call ahead and state why. Apologize on your way in.
73. Put the Phone Away During Meetings
As a general rule, avoid taking out your phone during meetings. Give people the attention you would expect from them while speaking.
74. Keep Your Ringer on Silent
Unless waiting for an urgent call, leave your ringer on silent at your workstation to avoid disturbing your colleagues.
75. Listen More Than You Speak
Trying to dominate a meeting will not win you any friends. Practice active listening and only open your mouth when you have something meaningful to say.
76. Keep the Meeting on Track
Chitchat is a standard part of launching a meeting, but avoid letting it direct you off-track. Maintain your productivity by steering the session towards the issue at hand.
77. Hold Meetings Privately
Gather together the colleagues you need to speak to and move to a private space. It’s one of the top rules of etiquette because it demonstrates that you want others to remain focused on their hard work.
78. Stick to Time
Respect people’s time during online and offline meetings. Lay out the schedule and a rough time to let your group know how long they can expect to be away from their workstations.
79. Make Everyone Feel Included
Encourage others to put forward their thoughts by going around the table and asking others what they think.
80. Pay Attention to Every Speaker
Meetings can quickly descend into chaos when people are not adequately heard. Leave your phone on silent and in your pocket. Give everyone your full attention.
81. Don’t Shoot Down Ideas
Everyone should be encouraged to share ideas but avoid shooting them down instantly. Even if they’re terrible, try to pick out the good from the bad and recommend how ideas can be improved.
82. Avoid Putting New Employees on the Spot
Be a team player from day one by bringing new employees in slowly. Don’t put them on the spot in a meeting or you risk putting undue pressure on their shoulders. Give them a smooth path to integrating into the team.
83. Ask Intelligent Questions
To avoid repetition, think about thoughtful, poignant questions you may have. This makes the most of every minute and prevents people from listening to the same information given over and over again. To do this, you must be prepared for your meeting and have done any prework ahead of time.
84. Check the Specs Before a Virtual Meeting
Check your hardware and audio levels before a virtual meeting begins. Nothing ruins productivity and causes frustration than technical problems to kick off a meeting.
85. No Multitasking in Virtual Meetings
If you would not do it in an offline meeting, avoid doing it in a virtual meeting. People know when someone is multitasking, so give virtual meetings your full attention.
86. Be Presentable Even Online
The virtual office is no excuse for throwing all business etiquette rules out of the window. Dress as you would in the office or out to a business lunch, even if sitting at your home’s own desk.
87. Mute Your Microphone
Unless speaking, mute your microphone. Ambient sounds can quickly be picked up and interrupt others during your Zoom call.
88. Remove Distracting Backgrounds
Playing around with your video call background may be fun, but it distracts the rest of the office. Imagine you are in your usual work area and maintain a neutral background.
89. Refill the Copier’s Paper Tray & Replace Toner Cartridges
Noticed the paper tray is low in the copier or the toner cartridge is almost out? Do your duty and refill it. If someone is in a hurry, the last thing they want is to see their long copy run disrupted by a lack of paper or ink. Nobody likes this job, but somebody has to do it. Be a workplace hero by keeping the copy machine working.
90. Avoid Crowding the Copier
Workplace chat with team members at the copier is normal but avoid crowding around the copier. Others may need to copy something in a timely manner, and they shouldn’t have to barge through a group of coworkers.
91. Notify Others of Copier Issues
Flashing icons indicating jamming are frustrating. Notify the relevant department as soon as possible so the problem can be resolved quickly.
92. Copy Only What You Need
Go green and avoid wasting workplace resources by copying only what you need. Your boss and coworkers will thank you for it.
93. Let Colleagues with Small Copy Jobs Go First
If you have a large amount of material to copy and your colleague is waiting with a small job, be polite and let them go first.
94. Replenish Office Supplies
Office supplies like paperclips, printer paper, and pens can quickly disappear. While you may not be responsible for replenishing the supply closet, you can report the shortage to the person responsible.
95. Participate in Work Events
Work events, such as Christmas parties and visits to conferences, are an opportunity to spread your wings. Participate and encourage others to join in to set the right good time mood for all. When you participate, do so in a way that doesn’t call too much attention to yourself, such as because of how you dress, or how competitive you might be in office games.
96. Drink in Moderation or Not at All
Never overindulge at the office Christmas party or during a Friday afternoon social outing. As a rule, don’t do something you don’t want the entire company to discuss for the next few years.
97. Office Potluck? Be Considerate
Think about the dietary choices of others before plopping a readymade dish down in front of them. Encourage everyone to try different dishes and be mindful that not everyone may be particularly good at cooking.
98. Buy Gifts for Everyone
If you purchase gifts in the office, everyone should receive a gift. It’s good manners and good office etiquette to prevent anyone from feeling left out.
99. Never (Obviously) Buy Gifts for Supervisors
Buying gifts for supervisors can put others under pressure to buy gifts for those who sign their paychecks. It could also be wrongly misconstrued as trying to buy favor with management. If you are going to do it, be discreet.
100. Give Gifts Discreetly
Unless buying for everybody, make sure any coworkers receive gifts discreetly. You want to avoid creating jealousy within an open office space.
101. Send Thank You Notes
Has someone done you a favor? Send them a little thank-you note. Putting those sticky notes to good use can create a better working environment by acknowledging the efforts of others.
Mastering office etiquette can go a long way to making you a model worker. Mistakes and missteps happen but learning from your errors will make you a pleasure to be around in the office.
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