The Top 5 Open Office Faux Pas Your Coworkers Dread

September 16, 2019 4 Minute Read

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Okay, we’ll admit it. CBRE pioneered the open office concept in Canada in the 1980s. And for many companies it works great! But some bad habits have started to form between close-working colleagues.

Although the main gripes are well known – not enough space or privacy to go around – you might be surprised by some of what drives your coworkers up the nonexistent walls. Which means you could also be one of the worst offenders.

When working in close quarters, etiquette is key. Read on to find out if you’re committing any of these dreaded open office faux pas.

The Chatterbox

This coworker loves to share and isn’t shy doing it. From their take on the latest HBO series to the ins-and-outs of their personal life, find them at their desk or in the kitchen performing a personal monologue at all hours of the day. Phone calls are taken at full volume, and subtle hints that others are busy are blissfully ignored.

Of course, one of the main benefits of an open space is the ability to collaborate with your colleagues. But be sure that you’re limiting your conversation to work appropriate topics – think weekend activities and weather patterns, not in-depth romantic drama – or you might end up impeding the work of everyone around you.

Volume is also important. Without the soundproofing of personal offices, it’s up to each person to watch their tone and realize when everyone has their headphones in and head down.



The Hall Monitor

One of the worst offenses is the office note taker. Who is this person, you ask? If there’s one in your office, you’ll know it. This coworker makes note of all the comings-and-goings in your open office and will be sure to say so.

Is someone consistently going home right at 5pm? What about the desk-mate that seems to make frequent trips to the bathroom, or always go out for lunch?

This kind of tracking behavior violates coworker’s privacy and creates a sense of tension in the office. It’s impossible not to notice things from time to time, but if you’ve started keeping a mental list of who goes where and when, it might be time to stop.

The Pungent Desk Luncher

Sadly, it’s often the best cooks that are guilty of this offense. While your poached cod tasted delicious last night, it certainly doesn’t smell great this morning. The same goes for pungent stews and stinky cheeses.

It’s true that meal prep is hard, and it’s not always possible to opt for a scentless salad. But if you’re going to heat up a particularly smelly dish, maybe eat in the kitchen for once. And be sure to put in extra time into clean up. No one wants to work with dirty plates littered about.

Pungent desk luncher

The Nail Clipper

Personal grooming is one of the all-time top open office faux pas, period. Maybe you think your coworkers haven’t noticed your covert desktop manicures but we’re here to tell you we have, and we’re not happy about it.

While it may seem harmless to brush your hair – or your teeth – at your desk, bathrooms exist for a reason, and give everyone a sense of cleanliness and privacy.

There is a thing as being too comfortable at work – it might be time to reevaluate if you are.

The Hoarder

An open concept office is only as clean as each of its occupants and, unfortunately, everyone has a different standard of cleanliness.

Take a minute to look around your workspace. Do you have more than one empty coffee cup? More than two? Would you describe the piles of paper that surround you as “overflowing?” Are there crumbs hiding in corners and a layer of discarded fast food wrappers at your feet? Be honest.

If you responded yes to even two of these questions, you may be the office hoarder. Keeping a few personal items at your desk is one thing, but as soon as a real mess starts to accumulate it becomes distracting and unpleasant for everyone around you.

Go ahead and do a quick purge (and maybe a good wipe down). You’ll feel better and your colleagues will thank you.


Is Your Office to Blame?

While taking personal responsibility for office behavior is important, some spaces are designed better than others. Having designated areas for workers to gather outside of their desks cuts down on chatter in the main workspaces. White noise systems can create a sense of privacy and quiet even in open offices. And a no-lunch-desk policy makes for a cleaner and happier workplace.

Workplace Strategy works with Canada’s leading businesses to create offices that are beautifully and efficiently designed, so that employees are excited to go to work each day. Build your advantage by enhancing your office space with their global experience and best practices.

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