Etiquette 101: How to Behave in an Open Office

February 28, 2018

5 tips for better manners in the modern workspace

While an open workspace design has been shown to improve efficiency and collaboration, organizations need to prepare employees for this type of transition. In a diverse workforce of both introverts and extroverts, not all personality types will be able to instantly adapt to an open office environment. Some roles naturally require more independence and quiet (Accounting), while others require continuous collaboration (Sales). As you plan your open workspace design, consider putting less collaborative employees in lower-traffic, quieter areas.

Another important way to help employees transition to an open office involves setting basic expectations about good manners. Start with these five principles and build out your own set of office etiquette.

  1. No Yelling. We’re Still Professionals, Not Animals.

When walls come down, noise insulation tends to diminish. This means the office gets louder, and it becomes easier to sink into lazy behaviors that can hamper productivity. Case in point, when you can see a coworker across the room, it might be tempting to shout out a question rather than walk over or send an instant message. Resist the temptation.

Helpful tips:

  • Do not yell unless the building is on fire.
  • A stinky tuna salad can sometimes scream louder than a human ever could. Save smelly foods for the great outdoors.
  • Loud whispering can also be disruptive. Be aware of how your interactions affect your colleagues’ productivity.
  • Gossiping in an open-office workplace is distracting and unprofessional, and it can create a negative work environment.
  1. Create healthy boundaries.

Try using signage to signal availability. Something as simple as stoplight signage (red, yellow, and green) can help indicate whether or not it is okay to disrupt a colleague.

  • Red = Do not disturb.
  • Yellow = Only interrupt if urgent.
  • Green = I’m available.
  1. Limit Unnecessary Noise.

Playing a clip of a funny video or song over lunch break can be a fun way to reduce stress, but it’s important to be considerate of others. If others are working, save the fun for the breakroom where it is less likely to distract colleagues.

Helpful tips:

  • Use earbuds or headsets when listening to music, participating in conference calls, or attending online training.
  • Turn all cellular devices to ‘vibrate’ or ‘silent’.
  • Limit conversation volume and length in shared workspaces.
  • Provide small, private spaces, such as enclaves that employees can use when they need to have conversations or make phone calls.
  1. Address Attitude Problems and Conflict Quickly.

Without walls, it can be difficult to create distance from uncomfortable situations. For this reason, it is important that Human Resources and managers make an effort to address bad attitudes and conflict head-on before stress builds that can kill productivity and problem solving.

  1. Use Sick Time.

Germs spread quickly in group settings. In an open workspace, make a point of encouraging employees to take time off—or establish a teleworking plan—when they fall ill. All of the potential efficiency and productivity to be gained from an open-office workspace can easily be lost if your team’s health suffers as a result.

What Makes or Breaks Success in an Open Office

At the end of the day, open office environments are built on respect. When colleagues seek to create a predominantly positive and productive office space for all, you have a solid foundation for open workspace success.

Asure Software’s Workspace Management solutions can help you prepare your employees to thrive in an effective, productive open office design.