Tips for Open Office Space Etiquette

Tips for Open Office Space Etiquette

By Hayley Shaughnessy


Open the doors. Break down the walls. Move around the desks and chairs. Welcome to the open office space!  For some of us who work in certain industries, such as creative or tech, this vision of a work space isn’t something new. We’re conditioned to the working world of standing desks or half-cubicles and work stations bunched closely together.


There are many out there who have never experienced a truly open office. But as the modern workplace is transforming let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts when working in close quarters with your coworkers in an open-concept environment.

Do: Use your indoor voice (and laugh!)


Privacy is generally not easy to come by in an open office. Space is pretty limited if you want to go make a private phone call, or take time during a busy work week to step back in a quiet space. With this being said, the space you’re granted at work – your desk – becomes your (somewhat) private space, but always remember that you’re in close proximity to others.

Take inventory of your colleagues’ voices. Does anyone speak loudly and distract you while you’re on the phone? It’s worth evaluating your own audio levels to make sure you’re not causing distractions.


And why not do the same for your laugh? Many of us who have worked in open offices can bring to mind someone in the office whose laugh is constantly in the background. Laughter can be the best medicine, but can be distracting for colleagues trying to concentrate on a deadline. Avoid one of the worst case scenarios of being the wrong kind of disruption in the workplace: someone who is always causing distractions for the worker bees who need a little peace and quiet to focus.

Don’t: Treat your open “office” like a bedroom


Think of your open office as one big room that is shared by all of your colleagues – there are few, if any, walls or barriers between you and your colleagues, so this makes it a unique environment.


It’s the group’s responsibility to make sure working areas are kept neat and tidy. If you have things scattered around your desk during the work day, don’t sweat it; that’s completely okay. Just make sure you organize before heading home to show that you’re gone for the night and aren’t moving in anytime soon. It can make you stand out for the wrong reasons.


Being tidy doesn’t mean you can’t add your own stylish flare to your workspace surroundings. In most open office spaces, it’s okay to put pictures up, write motivational quotes on whiteboards and keep candies close in an arm’s reach for when work gets stressful.


Do: Put yourself in everyone else’s shoes

Overall, when working in an open office space, the most important thing to do is be mindful of others. Put yourself in the shoes of your colleagues’ who might have a different role than you. What’s important for them to succeed in your shared space? Little noise and little distraction? Or perhaps the opposite? Being able to acknowledge and understand people’s comfort levels will help you succeed just as much.


And while on the topic of candies and food, it’s a point worth making to be mindful of your colleagues’ allergies and preferences. We all know perhaps too well that smell travels, and with an odorous lunch, it could reach every nose in an open office.


Don’t: Be the office musician


In most offices, listening to music through headphones or earbuds is acceptable as long as it’s at the appropriate noise level and not too distracting for others.


But in an open office space, there’s more to consider when it comes to listening to music, or even podcasts. Sound travels more in an open office than in an office with cubicles or private offices. Do you sing along with the music you listen to? Do you tap to a rhythm on your desk while waiting for a phone call?


Try and avoid being the office musician. Instead, invite your colleagues to a night of karaoke to let loose from a work week.


Do: Embrace your surroundings

If you find yourself having to work in an open office space for the first time, don’t be afraid. Talk to your colleagues to see how they’ve adjusted. Everyone has a different approach that may be beneficial to finding your groove. Be considerate of those around you and you will do just fine.


You also have to be ready to go with the flow if a new colleague or two are seated close to you. You may need to make adjustments given the balance of personalities or preferences.


Working in an open office can be daunting for those who might be accustomed to the high walls of cubicles or the privacy of a door with an office. But it can also help you to bond with your fellow employees and really soak up knowledge that flows more easily with less walls in the way.


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