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Open Office Etiquette

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Private offices and their budget counterparts, the cubicle, are becoming less common as employers seek to increase opportunities for collaboration, decrease real estate foot prints, and keep employees from feeling trapped or isolated. But, with free space comes responsibility—the responsibility to be considerate of your co-workers. Here are ten tips for keeping the peace.

  • Don't be smelly. Not your perfume, not your lunch, not your funky herbal tea. Nobody wants to smell that.
  • Take private calls someplace private. Do not distract the entire office as you mediate a disagreement between your kids, plan the soccer car pool, or explain to your mom why you're not ready to start a family.
  • Set your cell phone to "silent" if you're in truly close quarters. "Vibrate" just gives everyone who sits near you a little thrill—but we still know your phone is going off. So, unless you're expecting a call about a kidney, "silent." (This, of course, only applies if you only use your cell for personal calls at work. If you are using it for business, carry on!)
  • If you use earbuds or headphones to minimize your own distractions, be sure you've got the volume low enough that you aren't "buzzing" those near you.
  • Likewise, if you eat with your headphones on, be conscious of the fact that you may be chewing more loudly since you can't hear yourself.
  • Keep the coffee klatch and office banter out of people's workspace. Want to rehash the weekend, or discuss how to approach a tricky client? Cool. Find someplace to talk that's removed from others' immediate workspace.
  • Keep from talking "over" or "through" someone. If the person you need to speak with is a couple of desks down, walk your butt over to them. (But first, peek to see if they look busy. If so, send a message that they can deal with on their own time.)
  • Are you a pencil or finger tapper? Your nervous habits are probably driving somebody nearby crazy, so knock it off.
  • Even if workspace is "open," it's still personal. Refrain from using other's supplies, or getting into their workspace. And remember that even though your workspace is yours, it's still public, so keep it neat!
  • Be nice. We're all annoying sometimes, so cut your neighbors some slack if they break the rules of open office etiquette once in a while.

Written by West Michigan Woman staff writer Jennifer Reynolds, who is blessed with the most courteous deskmates ever!


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