Some days it may feel like you spend more time at your desk than you do at home, but it’s important to remember that work isn’t a place to let loose and forget your manners. “As a general rule of thumb, I always advise people to be extra conscious in any workspace that requires you to share it,” says etiquette expert Myka Meier.
“Having good etiquette at work mostly simply means to be considerate and respectful of everyone around you.”
With that in mind, here are Meier’s top 20 etiquette faux pas to avoid in the office.
1. If you have a door, close it if you take personal calls. If you don’t have a door or are in an open plan space, keep private calls short by saying you’ll call the person back on your next break, or walk to an area that is more conducive to personal calls like a lounge area or even outside. If you work in an open office space and professional phone calls distract you, remember that it’s probably not the person’s intention to bother you. Try to be understanding of the situation and keep a good pair of headphones nearby.
2. Keep your computer and phone muted or on silent, so that every time you get an email or message it does not alert everyone on your floor.
3. Do not use a conference room to take long personal calls or treat it as your personal office. Squatting is for the gym—not the workplace.
4. In addition to doing your part to keep the bathroom clean, do not use the restroom to socialize, whether you need to call your mom or catch up on the latest office news. It’s called water cooler chat for a reason.
5. If you’re in a meeting, give your undivided attention to the person speaking. If you must send off a quick note or check something on your phone or computer, keep it short and sweet.
6. Unless everyone is in on the joke, keep loud conversation to a minimum. There might be a distraction but you don’t want to become one.
7. While eating lunch away from our desks is a luxury these days, remember those sitting around you. Try to avoid foods that splatter or slurp or have a lingering smell in a shared office space. As much as you may love steamed fish, the rest of your team will probably won’t.
8. Remember that others need to use the communal kitchen too. If someone continues to prep their lunch in front of the communal microwave after heating up their food, it’s okay to politely bring attention to the fact that they’re taking up the space by saying something like, “Looks yummy! Do you mind if I pop my bowl in?”
9. If someone is nice enough to bring in food to share with the rest of the office, don’t leave the cleanup all to them. If you take the last slice of cake, wash the dish it came on and make sure it gets back to them.
10. If you’re sick and contagious, you shouldn’t be at work, otherwise you risk getting the entire office ill.
11. Think before you hit reply-all. Does everyone need to take the time out of their day to read your note?
12. Email tone is very hard to read, so be sure you’re using language that helps the recipient understand it. And despite what your middle school English teacher may have told you, exclamation points are almost required these days. A simple line like “Really appreciate your help! Thank you, Michael” is better than “Thanks. Michael”
13. Don’t block the elevator door. If the elevator’s full when someone tries to get out, and you’re in the way, simply exit the elevator altogether and then re-enter.
14. When it comes to opening doors, only go in front of someone who opened the door if they motion you through. Same rules apply to whoever swiped their card to access the door—wait until the first person has walked through before you follow.
15. Etiquette in general is becoming more gender neutral, so when it comes to opening doors and getting in and out of elevators, what matters more is showing respect to people who are more senior to you in your office. If you’re entering your floor or the elevator at the same time as your boss—or your boss’s boss—be sure to hold the door open for them and let them enter first.
16. While it’s impossible to always be on time, it’s important to let people know you’re running late. For every minute you think you’ll be late, give two minutes warning. So if you think you’ll be 10 minutes late for the call, email 20 minutes ahead so your colleague or client can adjust their schedule accordingly.
17. You might love your gardenia-bomb perfume, but the office is a place to keep scent subtle. If you choose to put on fragrance, remember it’s meant to go on pulse points only and not clothing—it can permeate the whole room.
18. When it comes to throwing out trash and recycling, be considerate of everyone’s space as much as possible. If you go to put your box or recycle in the designated area and see that it’s overflowing into someone’s work space, think of your colleague and hold off on piling more on. You never know where your next desk will be.
19. In the age of social media, remember that nothing is “private” anymore. Don’t complain about your colleagues or work on Facebook or Twitter. Even if your account is private, it could get back to them.
20. Even if you’re friendly with your colleagues, be aware of crossing boundaries. Over-sharing details of your personal life is unprofessional no matter how close you are with your team.