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Much has changed since the days of cubicle offices where smoking was commonplace and meeting at the watercooler was an actual thing, though some say chats by watercoolers still happen!

In today’s office environment you are more likely to find an office that is open plan with tea and coffee making facilities in the corner and a team more in each other’s personal space than ever before.

What I will do here is highlight five of the key open plan office faux pas – but make no mistake this list is not exhaustive.

  1. Volume

In conversation or taking a phone call, having a natter too loudly can annoy the rest of the office.

Problems with your phone? Ask for a new one. Unable to hear the person on the other end? Arrange to call them on another number or another time.

Remember that the people around you are trying to work and you might find breaks and lunch are staggered plus if you’re in an industry that requires intense concentration then audible interruptions are the worse.

Issues like this are usually approached with humour. Making a joke of it is much easier than raising a complaint. However if it continues and is affecting productivity, consider raising it with your management privately.


  1. Eating at your desk

Come on, we’ve all done this at some point. Whether your company’s policy allows it or not we’ve all had a cheeky sandwich at our desk, usually while hurtling towards that deadline or just answering a couple of emails between meetings. What office etiquette will draw the line at is smelly food. Eggs, curry, and cheese (especially in summer…yuck!) are big no no’s within an open plan office.

Exceptions to this may be if the office has all ordered in a mass amount of pizza or cakes either for good performance or just because it’s Friday. At least this way everyone is enjoying the food and the smell is mutual.


  1. Plants on the desk

Though most offices encourage making your desk a place you like to be (see ‘Desk Décor Do’s and Don’ts’) there is of course a line to what your colleagues can put up with. Plants are a case in point.

Having plants can be your moment of calm and reflection and a way of concentrating on something else for a few minutes which eases stress and can improve productivity.

However, wning half a jungle across your desk may result in being accused of causing insects in the work place such as the fly that refuses to pass away peacefully or even the general office aroma (see point 2).

To avoid this it would be wise to pick plants that are easy to look after such as a cactus, spider plant, snake plant or even the classic bonsai tree.


  1. Serial Lateness

No one likes the repeatedly late. Even if you weren’t planning to meet with them or had any arrangements reliant on them. Seeing that same person come in late with little to no excuse can drive an office mad. Especially if that colleague disturbs what is normally a free flowing creative office environment.

The best way to approach this (as management) is to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. Have that meeting with them and find out the reason for lateness and see what can be done to combat it in future. As the colleague raise this with your management as compassionately as possible. It may already have been raised by the time you decide to voice your concerns.


  1. The Conversationalist

We all love a good chat and catch up and to have an office environment where this comes easily is very important to team morale and cooperation.

Unfortunately there are times when having a chat can be counterproductive. In this day and age it is not the management’s job to treat the team like school children so ordering them to get back to work will only increase tension and lower morale.

The best progress would be to defuse the situation as soon as possible, either privately or whichever suits the situation best. For example if you’re close to the colleagues causing the issue you may find it easier to talk directly and resolve it out in the open. Or if you are in a management role within the team then consider using one to one time to approach the subject.


In summary if you treat your team well and they will treat each other well. This is a tried and tested method and to quote Vince Lombardi; “Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”


Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below!


About The Author

Karl Bilby

We work very closely with our expert accountants to bring you the latest factually correct tax and accounting news. We also enjoy writing about small business news that we hope you find useful!

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