There are many “unwritten” office rules. To make a great daily impression and build fantastic working relationships, you need to brush up on these. Here are some of the top Do’s and Don’ts of office etiquette so you know when you may be overstepping the line.


Privacy Pointers
Working in an open plan situation, requires discipline and respect for others privacy and personal space. If you have problems with a colleague or a manager discuss these in the privacy of a closed office-with the person concerned. Leave your personal drama at home. The whole floor does not need to hear about your cheating boyfriend’s latest wrong doing or your child’s potty training saga.

Confidential Work
If you are working on a project of a confidential nature-keep out of sight of curious eyes. When away from your desk, don’t leave an email or document open on the screen. Put away, confidential paperwork in a drawer. At the same time don’t go trying to look for that file you need on your colleague’s table without their consent.

Announce yourself
Don’t assume that all staff have an “open door policy”. Don’t barge into someone’s office space without checking that you are not interrupting – a verbal “knock, knock” will be appreciated.

Always acknowledge the person walking into your office by looking up and making eye contact – even if you are busy on the telephone. A nod and eye contact acknowledges the person and makes them feel welcome.


Even if your company does not have a “clean desk policy” ensure your desk is neat and tidy at all times. Your tidiness forms part of the “halo effect” and your overall professionalism. If your office area always looks like a rubbish dump – people will start to think “Imagine what her/his house looks like?”

Avoid eating at your desk. There is nothing more unpleasant than having to endure various food smells at all times (slap chips, sardines, boiled eggs), in an open plan environment. Even if they never mention their disgust to you, colleagues might start to resent you, and label you as inconsiderate. Make sure you clean away used mugs and plates promptly.

Personal calls
Personal calls are no longer personal, in open plan offices, your call is likely to be overheard, even when colleagues don’t want to. If you can, wait until lunch or tea time to make personal calls. If you are making long personal calls at work you are either lacking job motivation or are disrespectful of company time. The quickest way to irritate your colleagues is by walking around the office speaking loudly on a cell phone.

Take Your Turn
Whether it is making coffee, buying cake or showing the new person around, make sure you take your turn. These small tasks show you are a team player.

Help Out
Offer your help to colleagues when you can see they really need it eg making photocopies 5 minutes before that all important meeting. Make sure you use your common sense on this one, as you can easily be taken advantage of.

In this TV interview I share more tips on the do’s and dont’s of open plan office etiquette



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