The Guide to Office Etiquette

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Working in an office can create a social situation that needs to be handled correctly in order to make it work. With a selection of people thrown together in the same place for most of their waking hours in the week, it can cause tension if people don’t follow the correct office etiquette and social graces. We’ve all heard those stories of nightmare offices with colleagues who manage to grind each other’s gears, but what are the accepted work etiquette rules?

At Viking, we want to help you and your colleagues create a harmonious environment in the office, so we’ve put together this guide on office etiquette to help you on your way to a blissful employment.


Work Etiquette Rules

There are no office etiquette rules set in stone, but there are many things that often come up as common areas of frustration that can cause tension in the office. From borrowing office supplies from colleagues without asking to good manners in the office, here are some work etiquette rules to stick to:

  • Be on time – The first rule of good office etiquette must be to make sure you’re always on time. Whether it’s getting in the office on a morning or arriving at meetings, make sure you’re punctual. Bad timekeeping can ruffle a lot of feathers.
  • Be tidy – Everyone has their own standards of cleanliness, so keeping your workspace and the area around it tidy will help stop you running the risk of frustrating your colleagues.
  • Keep the noise down – From talking on the phone to listening to music through headphones, remember that not everyone wants to hear your noise. It’s also a good idea to keep your mobile phone on silent.
  • Don’t come in sick – We might feel like we’re doing everyone a favour by soldiering through an illness and coming into the office. Nobody wants to hear you cough and sneeze all day, spreading germs through the office, so stay home if you’re not well.
  • Respect your colleagues’ space – Even if you get on with your desk neighbour, make sure you give them space and let them get on when they’re busy. Also, don’t help yourself to anything from their desk.
  • Avoid bad language – Although we may get frustrated when sat at our desks, venting this with swearing can be both distracting and offensive to colleagues.


Office Food Etiquette

Food in the office can be one of the biggest causes of unrest in the workplace. Although you might enjoy grazing at your desk all day, there are a few office food etiquette tips that you should be aware of:

  • Beware of smells – One of the most commonly complained about office etiquette factors is cooking and eating smelly food in the office. Before you microwave that fish and bring it back to your desk, consider how your colleagues will feel about the smell.
  • Clean up – Using a shared kitchen means that the cleanliness and hygiene standards of many different people all come together at once. Leaving dirty plates and spoons around is not a good way to endear yourself to colleagues – use the dishwasher or clean them.
  • Restock the tea and coffee – For those who look forward to their morning hot drink, it can be very frustrating to find the coffee or tea bags haven’t been refilled by the person who last used them.
  • Keep off other people’s food – Seeing your favourite chocolate bar in the fridge can be tempting, but make sure you don’t succumb to the temptation to ‘borrow’ it. Food theft can cause office outrage.
  • Don’t leave food in the fridge for weeks – There’s not much worse than getting the job of cleaning out the fridge, complete with month-old mouldy sandwiches and foul-smelling cheese.


Etiquette In and Around the Office

Good etiquette at work doesn’t stop as soon as you leave your desk – there are plenty of other places where it’s important to show good etiquette in and around the office:

  • Car park etiquette – Bad parking can cause a stir at the best of times, but it can cause real tension in the workplace. Parking across more than one bay or blocking in a co-worker is a sure-fire way to cause problems.
  • Hold the doors – This might be common courtesy all the time but holding the doors as you move around the building is important. Letting the door slam in the face of a colleague won’t get you any favour.
  • Remember “please” and “thank you” – From the CEO to the cleaners, the IT team to the cafeteria staff, always remember to greet everyone and be polite.


These are just a few rules to follow in order to keep your office working harmoniously. Remember that every office has its own way of working and it can take some time to figure that out and adjust to it. It’s also worth remembering that rules can also be different when it comes to international office etiquette. However, all over the world, good etiquette makes for a good working environment.