It took me a few weeks into my first job out of college to realize just how loud my chewing was in the roomful of quiet, concentrating people. Were my coworkers wearing headphones because they liked listening to music, or because I’d been chowing down on carrots for the last 20 minutes?
I set out to do some research. I found myself typing things into Google like “when you chew, is it as loud to everyone else as it is in your head.” (The answer is no, but it’s still quite loud.) What I found was that “noisy eating” is actually one of the top office gripes — and this realization snapped me back to reality. Nowadays, I enjoy my crunchy celery sticks in the kitchen.
It’s time for you to ask yourself: Are you guilty of any of these annoying office habits? (I’m pretty sure everyone’s guilt of at least one, myself included.) If so, it’s probably time to cut it out.
Have you ever gotten an email that says, “I know this is your day off, but …”? When people take a vacation, it’s because they need a break from work. Unless that person has agreed to make themself available, don’t take advantage of their compulsion to check work email once or twice. If it’s a real work emergency — like, your biggest client is about to cancel that day — just call them or shoot them a text.
Small stacks of used cups, dirty Tupperware, apple cores, banana peels. Trash clutters your desk, and worse, it SMELLS. Don’t turn your desk into a junkyard. Either clean up your stuff every time you get up to go somewhere, or invest in a small trashcan to put under your desk. If you’re heating a hot meal for lunch, especially seafood (which I think you should think about eating elsewhere), then clean it up right away once you’re finished so it doesn’t stink up the room for hours.
Does anyone else get a disturbing visual whenever someone asks to “pick your brain”? Especially in the context of eating something. “I’d love to grab a bite to eat and pick your brain.” AHHH. Sounds like lunch date out of a horror movie. Safe alternatives are: “I’d love to ask your advice on,” “I’d like to ask for guidance about,” and “Could we get in touch about …” Anything but a lobotomy, please.
Most of us have had That Roommate at some point in our cohabitational careers. Among my college roommates, dirty dishes were the biggest source of tension. But most of us haven’t been in those situations for a while — and all of us should be able to do our own dishes as soon as we’re done using them. Think nobody knows it’s you? Trust me, people can always tell.
Reality check: The average person wastes 31 hours in meetings per month. You definitely don’t want to contribute to that. Give invitees an idea of why they really need to be at your meeting by sending a note, description, or some sort of heads up along with your calendar invitations. Booking time on someone’s calendar without asking isn’t courteous.
If you have to take a personal call, take it out in the hallway, in an empty conference room — or better yet, outside of the building. It can be distracting for people to talk on their cell phones at their desks … And it’s just weird to talk on your phone in a bathroom stall. (That’s one of those things I’ll never understand.)
We’re all a little awkward, but sometimes you’ve got to read those social cues and resist the urge to contribute to a conversation that’s happening across the room — even if you know you could contribute to it.
You probably don’t even know you’re doing it. In fact, take five seconds right now to ask your neighbor whether they can hear your music through your headphones. It could be the nicest thing you do today — and it could save your hearing down the road.
It’s appropriate and usually encouraged for coworkers to chat about their personal lives to get to know each other — but there’s a line. Crossing the line includes sharing unsolicited information about personal finance — like how much you love your brand new car, or how big your hotel suite was on your last vacation. You’ll either annoy your coworkers or make them feel bad about themselves — both are unnecessary. Before sharing overly personal information, ask yourself if those details are really crucial to the story, or if you could get by without them. My guess is that the latter is the case 99.99% of the time.
The first email might be relevant to the whole group, but if you have a comment or question for a specific person or group of people, it makes no sense to cc: everyone on the original list. We all get barraged by tens or hundreds of new emails daily — don’t add to the ammo.
You don’t get points for coming into the office when you’re blowing your nose, falling asleep in meetings, or complaining about your headache all day. No one wants to catch what you have, and it’s unsettling to know your germ-infested hands have been all over door handles, bathroom stalls, and elevator buttons. If you’re sick but still feel you need to work, then at least stay at home so the rest of us don’t have to suffer with you.
… And chewing gum, and humming, and breathing loudly. Basically, any repetitive noise you make can and will drive your coworkers crazy. Sometimes you don’t notice you’re doing it, but if you realize you have a bad habit, work hard to stop it. And if someone tells you to stop, don’t be offended — everyone just wants to get their stuff done without being distracted.
Not all of us have a Busy Indicator Light — but headphones do the trick nearly as well. When you want to ask your coworker a question, look for indicators they’re in the zone and don’t want to be disturbed. Are they marked as “Do Not Disturb” on Gchat, typing quickly, leaning into their screen, or reading something dense? Wait until later so as not to interrupt, or drop them an email they can respond to on their own time.
Before you ask your coworkers that question, try to find the answer online. Only if you still can’t find the answer should you ask around. You don’t want to get this as a reply.
What office habits are your pet peeves? Share in the comments below!