Office Etiquette: Common Rules and Advice

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Office etiquette can impact you, your colleagues and your working environment. Practicing proper office etiquette can improve your relationships with coworkers and your professional reputation. In this article, you can learn more about the main features of office etiquette to help you navigate this workplace challenge with polite consideration.

What is office etiquette?

Office etiquette is a collection of rules or norms that relate to the behavior of people in workplaces. The purpose of office etiquette is to maintain a working environment in which workers treat each other courteously, so this form of etiquette advocates behaviors that are considerate of others.

Key benefits of good office etiquette

Offices in which the majority of workers practice good office etiquette are likely to be more satisfying places to work. Most workplace activities, such as communicating, performing various job responsibilities, managing your workspace and interacting with colleagues can be impacted by the norms of office etiquette.

Why is office etiquette important?

Here are several reasons why it is important to develop good office etiquette:

  • It can make a positive impression on others. As office etiquette involves behaviors that are considerate of others, practicing it can make a positive impression on your coworkers and your supervisor. Making a good impression can improve your collaboration with coworkers, your performance, your chances of being selected for employee referrals and your chances of being promoted.
  • It can avoid interpersonal conflicts. Failing to remember your manners at work can result in workplace conflicts that waste your time and reduce your performance.
  • It can help you build key professional contacts. Your professional contacts are very important to your career as they can help you in finding jobs in the hidden job market, writing letters of recommendation, researching industry news and handling professional challenges.
  • It can help you to develop your skill set. Developing good office etiquette can improve soft skills such as communication and interpersonal skills.

Good workplace etiquette can generate positive reactions in others and help you in developing contacts.

Common rules of office etiquette

The major rules of office etiquette involve several areas, such as:

Noise

The following etiquette rules can be helpful in maintaining a quiet working environment:

  • Mute your communication devices for incoming messages because message alerts can disturb the other workers on your floor. Checking your computer and your phone for messages regularly can help you to avoid missing any important messages.
  • Take calls in private by closing your office door and keep personal calls short. If you work in an open office space, move to a lounge area or another area where your call will not cause an interruption to others.
  • Be aware of the noise level of your professional conversations and minimize loud conversations.

Communication

The following etiquette rules can improve communication in the office:

  • Return all professional emails and calls within 24 hours. Use your initial reply to communicate that you need more time if necessary.
  • If you are running late, let your colleagues, supervisor or client know in advance.
  • Check all official correspondence for grammar errors, spelling mistakes and unnecessary formatting. Make sure that all of your written communication is professional.
  • Learn the names of your coworkers by writing them down if necessary. Remember to use their names in conversation.
  • Check your clothes and accessories to make sure that they are sending positive, professional messages.
  • Pay attention to the speaker when in a meeting and try to avoid or minimize distractions. You can handle any other communication after the meeting is over.

Communal spaces

The following etiquette rules can be helpful in sharing communal office spaces with others:

  • Do not use shared workspaces, such as conference rooms, for personal calls or personal meetings.
  • When eating lunch at your desk, avoid foods that produce strong smells or foods that splatter.
  • Avoid blocking the elevator door when the elevator is crowded by exiting the elevator and re-entering it when necessary.
  • Remember that others need to use devices in shared office spaces, such as microwaves, so avoid monopolizing communal equipment.
  • Help to keep the restroom and other shared office areas presentable by cleaning up after yourself.

Interpersonal

The following etiquette rules can improve your interpersonal skills:

  • Avoid using social media to complain about your colleagues or your boss. They could find out about your comments and this could make working with them difficult.
  • Avoid using office spaces to socialize. Maintain professional boundaries with your colleagues in relation to their personal space and avoid all unprofessional behaviors that could make them uncomfortable.
  • Be considerate of other people’s workspaces.
  • Keep perfumes subtle so they do not overpower a shared workspace.
  • Avoid sharing sensitive, personal information with your colleagues or asking them to share their personal lives with you.
  • Show respect to your senior coworkers with courtesies such as letting them enter and exit an elevator first or opening doors.
  • While you can dress a step above the company’s dress code occasionally, avoid dressing below the standard dress code.

Health

The following etiquette rules can be used to maintain a healthy working environment:

  • If you are feeling unwell, check with a medical practitioner to find out if your condition is contagious. If it is contagious, avoid going to work and risk spreading the sickness until you are well again.
  • Develop and maintain a healthy level of personal hygiene.

Tips to improve your office etiquette

Here are several tips you can use to improve your office etiquette:

Learn about the rules of office etiquette

While we have covered some of the most common rules of workplace etiquette, there could be additional company-specific norms that you need to know about. Make sure to check your contract or onboarding materials for any additional requirements.

Self-assess your behaviors in the workplace

Consider using this article to evaluate your current office behaviors and identify areas for improvement. Then try to improve these areas gradually.

Keep improving

Keep looking for ways to improve your office conduct as any improvements you make are likely to help your career.

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