Office Etiquette: 5 Guidelines for Working in a Shared Space  

Being “cubicled” is a professional reality, at least at some point in time in all our careers. We spend hours tapping away at our keyboards, like human woodpeckers, and it is only natural that we will, once in while want to take a break and interact with our neighbor, listen to a song, take a phone call. What we seldom realize is we may be doing things (whether we’re working or taking a break) that are coming in the way of other people’s work. Also, some of these things might also come across as rude, even though it may be unintentional. Working in shared spaces can be tricky. If you are getting cold shouldered by your coworkers and you think it is for no apparent reasons, maybe you could check if you are violating any of the guidelines we have put together for you, right here in this post!

1. No loud phone calls It is hard enough to be holed up in a cubicle for ten hours in a day (we are sorry if it’s even longer for you!). There are enough disruptions (the constant sound of the keyboard, the humming you can’t do anything about, the occasional giggle or laughter) one has to ignore and keep working, however, the tipping point is often the loud phone calls. Even if it is just for two minutes, and even if it is your mother, it is only proper manners to take the phone call outside and not disturb your co-workers.

2. Avoid personal talk and loud conversations – Even if you and your best-friend work one cubicle apart, conquer the urge to tell her/him who puked at the party last night or who broke up with whom. If you just can’t, then keep it to texting. Be assured, not many want to be a part of these conversations, and by default become a part of it because they unfortunately share the same working space. However, if you really do need to approach someone, make sure to keep your decibel levels really low so that you don’t disturb anyone.

3. Don’t use phrases which could hurt someone’s feelings – “Nigga” – not cool. “Biatch” – not cool. “Abey”, “Kutte”, “Kaminey” – cool in Sholay, not at work. While you may think you are just being friendly, the other person might be getting offended. Extremely informal lingo like the examples above is best to avoid at your work place.

4. Respect the privacy of your co-workers – Don’t stare into their monitor screens. Don’t insist on having conversations when they seem to be really busy. Even if they aren’t busy and look like they want to be left alone, take the hint. Don’t go asking everyone about who the people in the photographs on the cubicle wall, or their desks are. Remember there is a difference between being nosey and friendly, and the line is very fine and easy to blur. Take care to not toe the line!

5. Always ask before you borrow, or use – Even if you don’t mind if someone takes your stationery, your headphones, or a bite of the chocolate you left unattended for a second, do not assume everyone else to be the same. Always ask before you borrow something, if they aren’t there, wait for them to get back or don’t take it at all. While this may seem juvenile and kindergartenly to some, it is considered bad manners if you borrow things without the owner’s knowledge. Also, avoid eating at other people’s desks, even if they are not around. No one likes to start their day by cleaning up coffee stains or dried curry from their desk!

We hope what we shared in this post will help you take a step towards a more peaceful and productive shared working space environment. What have been the worst or best experiences you have had while working in a shared space? We would love to hear from you! Write to us or comment below. 🙂

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