Annoying office habits
Post written by Paragon Interiors   October 25, 2016

Just out of curiosity, we recently asked staff to inform us of any and all pet peeves, dislikes, and annoyances experienced in a typical day at the office. The response was simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. People are so different. Something that may annoy the stuffing out of one person, may not even be noticed by the next. Humming, singing, tapping, throat clearing, shouting, whispering, nagging, whining, smelling, chewing, popping, swallowing… these are things that people do. Certain habits are almost excusable as the perpetrator is probably not even aware that they are doing something annoying, but other behaviors are inexcusable.

The problem here is twofold; we become TOO comfortable with our colleagues and we spend TOO MUCH time together! You find that your office has started to feel like home to you. After all, we do spend the majority of our waking hours during the week at the office. If you think about it, from Monday to Friday you spend much more time with your colleagues than with your family.

It is good to be comfortable in your place of work, but we must remember that it is still an office environment. We need to be considerate and on our best behavior. We also need to be extra sensitive and conscious of personal habits that may annoy someone else. If your spouse chews gum and blows bubbles, you may hear that annoying POP once, maybe twice in an evening. But if your colleague sitting at the opposite desk blows bubbles, you’ll be checking into the loony bin before the end of the week, as the 164th POP for the week finally pushes you over the edge.

The smallest thing can become a great source of annoyance. The prior mentioned gum chewers are called out often and a close second are the daydreamers stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and stirring their coffee… Here are some tips on what to do and what not:

  • Replenish after use!

There are many things to be mindful of such as letting housekeeping know when you’ve finished the toilet roll – don’t leave your colleagues in a pinch! In fact, replenish or inform the relevant person of anything you finish; loo roll, printing paper, paper clips, sugar, spice and everything nice. None of us want to be in a situation where we run around frantically before a meeting because we can’t print an important document.

  • Clean up!

We all live by varying levels of “neatness” and “orderliness”, but being sloppy in the workplace is really not amusing – leaving work stations in a mess at the end of the day, not collecting prints in a timely fashion or not making sure that paper towels and recycling bits are placed neatly in the bin just leaves a mess for someone else to clean up. This is of course most evident in the kitchen, where messes are not wiped up, tea bags are not removed from mugs and when the last poor soul is closing up for the day, they need to play a tricky game of Jenga upon opening the dishwasher, followed by a sticky game of Tetris packing everyone else’s dishes neatly in order to start the wash cycle.

  • Be considerate when you are sick

Can we just take a moment to talk about sick people? It is understandable that people get sick more frequently in an open plan office, where everything is shared. But remember, everything is shared. That includes germs. If at all possible, work from home or at least remove yourself from the open plan setting, but if that is not an option, and you have to grace your colleagues with your germ infested presence, then be conscious of it. I was horrified at the amount of people complaining about colleagues coughing or sneezing on them, on their desks, over their lunch or just in their general vicinity. Sies! We were all taught in nursery school to put our hands in front of our mouths when we sneeze or cough – back to basics people!

  • Keep your hands to yourself

One thing that is not permissible under any circumstances is stealing. Nothing gives any individual the right to help themselves to their colleague’s lunch, sweets, stationery or personal items. This is the type of silly thing we all laughed at 20 years ago in that Friends episode, you know “The one with Ross’s Sandwich” – hilarious in a sitcom, not remotely funny at the office. The same goes for the theft of intellectual property. Stealing your colleagues ideas and passing them off as your own may get you instant recognition, but one thing I’ve learnt is that the truth always has a sneaky way of coming out…

  • How to handle peoples ‘mood swings’

Heavy – but it needed to be said. Now that that is out of the way, let’s have a look at a good way to handle moods: both your own and those around you.

It is good to feel at ease with your colleagues, strong bonds are formed when you spend so much time with people. Friendships form and we get to a place of being comfortable enough to say when you’re having a bad day, or in some cases even have a little cry when we feel overwhelmed with pressure. That’s all good and well – just tread lightly as the line is closer than you may think…

  • Keep your cool

It’s okay to say that you’re having a bad day – NOT okay to bite someone’s head off just because you’re in a mood. It’s okay to tell a little anecdote from your family weekend away – NOT okay to bore the entire office to tears by recounting every detail of your Aunt Mildred’s 90th birthday celebration. It’s okay to say that you’re feeling down, however it is NOT okay to bring those around you down as well.

  • Surround yourself with people that make you smile

Instead, opt for uplifting conversations. The wonderful thing about having so many people around is that someone is bound to have a funny anecdote or inspiring story to share, so if you’re feeling down, hang around the people who will be able to lift your spirits.

  • Respect your colleagues and remember those manners

There are always ways to improve our professionalism, but there are some key things that need to become second nature. Greeting people, being punctual or calling ahead if you are running late, paying attention to avoid people having to repeat themselves and just showing respect in general to those around you will already put you in good stead with your colleagues as well as your clients. It is easy to be considerate; just treat others how you would like to be treated.

  • Respect people’s privacy

Lastly, privacy has the potential to become a big issue with the current open plan office trends. There are two types of perpetrators: the privacy invaders and the privacy avoiders. The invaders may hover around your desk, trying to catch a glimpse of your computer screen, diary or notebook. They also often lurk around the kitchen area, ears tuned in to the faintest whispers… The Avoiders are often worse than the Invaders in that they are happy to share EVERYTHING! This phenomenon has put many in the awkward position of having to endure a one ended phone conversation regarding a topic that they really wish they knew nothing about. There are things that the ears cannot unhear!

The solution is simple. We design offices based on the research we have accumulated on these topics, When planning an efficient office space, we include lockable storage in order to keep private things private, as well as breakaway spaces and phone booths to shield the unsuspecting office folk from loud private phone conversations. All we need to do is make sure that we abide by office rules and use spaces for their intended purposes.

Let’s face it – many of these things, however annoying at the time, is pretty funny in hindsight, and the best way to face your day is with a pinch of salt, and from time to time when the humour wears off – add a slice of lime and a shot of Tequila… after hours, of course!

Written by Georgea Kindler