With many clients going through workspace transformations, we’re frequently asked about workplace etiquette guidelines. As with any change, a new workspace – often with greater openness –  requires some conscious adjustment.

While each company, culture and space is different, below are a few tips to help champion good etiquette in the workplace.

REDUCING DISTRACTION: Most complaints about the open office center on noise and distractions since sound carries so easily. The office noise etiquette tips below can help to reduce noise:

  • Remember to modulate your voice and not use speaker phones
  • If noise bothers you, utilize headphones when appropriate
  • Take advantage of meetings rooms for conference calls

KEEPING THE SPACE VISUALLY CLEAN: The new openness of a space provides a clean, open visual and keeping it that way is up to each employee.

  • Chairs are for people – hang up coats in shared coat closets
  • Go digital – archive files on your computer to cut down on paper and piles
  • Personalize your space, with restraint – a small picture or two in a simple frame is “just right”
  • Keep horizons and glass clear – nothing on top of overheads or panels or pasted to walls or glass
  • Do a “quick and tidy” before you go for the day

ODOR CONTROL: The smell of cologne, perfume or even flowers can bother co-workers with sensitivities to smells. Odor control needs to be reinforced with clear guidelines.

  • Use perfume and cologne with discretion
  • It’s distracting for co-workers to smell your lunch. Please limit food with strong odors like fish, popcorn, etc.
  • Please use the kitchen, café, breakroom areas to prepare and eat food
  • Do not put trash from your lunch in your workstation wastebasket

SHARED SPACES: Open workspaces are susceptible to looking cluttered when employees leave their materials out and about. With customers and vendors visiting the space it can also create a security issue.

  • Leave shared activity and meeting spaces ready for action – turn off AV, clean off white boards, toss trash and food, remove materials and push chairs back into place
  • The furniture is moveable, but if moved please make sure it gets returned to its designated spot
  • Everyone loves a good celebration, but hold away from focused areas and remember to tidy up afterwards

SUPPORTING COLLABORATION: Much of our work depends on connecting with colleagues both formally and informally. A few ideas:

  • Move conversations away from focused work settings
  • Hold impromptu small group meetings in open plan activity spaces or breakrooms
  • Reserve team activity spaces for large or longer meetings
  • Reserve enclave, refuge rooms or private offices for extended conference calls or one-on-one conversations

If you’d like us to create a custom etiquette guide for your company, reach out to your sales consultant or call 401.683.3150 and we can get to work.

Or you can learn more about driving change management by reading Knoll’s study “Open Office Etiquette: Protocols, Policies and Politeness”