Working open plan. Is there an etiquette? - 19 February 2019

Working open plan. Is there an etiquette?

In most office space these days, gone are the days of cubicles and closed-off rooms. On the whole they've been replaced by open plan working where everyone works together freely.

Whilst this type of environment allows for greater collaboration and social interactivity, it can also come with its own pitfalls. There's most definitely an etiquette when it comes to working in the open.

It pretty much comes down to putting yourself in other people's shoes. What annoys you? What makes it difficult for you to work? If it makes your day worse try not to do the exact same thing.
When you have to work next to each other, with no barriers and no escape, it's important to make it a harmonious place to be.....

Turn down your volume - In an open plan office, privacy is at a premium. The conversations and phone calls you have are not 'private' as you are in such close proximity to others, all day.

Try and keep your voice to a reasonable level. Raising your voice or shouting will be heard by everyone in the office and, more than likely will distract them from their work.
With your own voice, be aware of how loud you are and the effect you are having on other people's working days.

Mind your language - Most people can deal with a little bit of foul language, it happens as part of day-to-day life, but consider where you are and who you are working with. Jokes and phrases that might be fine with your friends in private could cause serious offence to your colleagues.

Think before you speak, remain courteous and professional and you should be fine.

It's a workplace, not a living room - You might need to wear different clothes for different working scenarios. It might be easier to keep your gym kit at work. You might want to see no need to clean your desk.

But your workspace is not your home and is not a private space, how your desk is kept and the stuff you leave lying around impacts on the whole office and your colleagues working environment.

Don't leave personal belonging strewn about and treat your desk as a professional working space, not your own little world.

You're not the office DJ - Listening to music while you work through headphones, or via a communal radio that everyone has decided on what plays, is fine as long as it is a reasonable volume so people can work.

Some people decide that they will play their choices through speakers out into the room! Don't be that person, they are generally considered annoying and a distraction for the rest of the office. What makes you think your music choice is what people want to hear, or that it is OK to play music out loud?

Think about how distracting that would be for you if you were trying to concentrate on an important piece of work.

This point also applies to notifications on computers and phones. Turn them down or off when in the office. Don't drive your co-workers insane with the constant bing of incoming messages.

Think about your food - We all have to eat and eating at our desk has become commonplace. In this scenario, what you are eating can also have an impact on the whole office space. If you cook an especially "fragrant" meal for lunch, that smell is likely to invade the whole office.

Think before you click that microwave button. Is that fish dish really the best thing to be eating in a workplace? It is never good to be known as the staff member who made the place smell of fish for a whole afternoon. Avoid the nickname 'Fishy Dave' and spare your colleagues the invasive smells.

Respect your surroundings and adapt accordingly - When getting to know a new workspace, take time to observe how the office operates and how people behave in it. Don't be afraid to quiz colleagues no how they adjusted and if there is anything you need to know about the office culture.

Getting to grips with this quicker will make the whole process less daunting and help ingratiate you to the workplace much quicker.

Basically, it boils down to common sense and having empathy for others in the workplace. Using this as a starting point should help you to avoid being the office annoyance.

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