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Do’s and Don’ts of office etiquette

Being a good coworker is just as important as the work you do!

Sarah Xu

January 02, 2024



In the post-COVID professional world, many emerging young professionals have little to no experience working in an office. As remote jobs have become normalized and somewhat expected to many current students, more and more jobs are returning to the office and students are learning how to operate in an in-person workplace. It has become apparent that many students lack some understanding of how best to interact in the office, and so, we’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you navigate proper office etiquette! These tips are essential for making a good first impression and maintaining a productive environment, and can make a significant difference in your presence around the office and professional relationships.

The Do's:

1️⃣ Respect Personal Space: Be mindful of people's personal space and avoid invading their workspace without permission.

2️⃣ Greet and Acknowledge: Always greet colleagues and acknowledge their presence. A simple "hello" or a nod can go a long way in fostering a friendly atmosphere.

3️⃣ Punctuality: Arrive on time (even early) for meetings! Punctuality demonstrates your respect for others' time.

4️⃣ Use a Quiet Tone: Keep your voice at a moderate volume. Shouting or speaking loudly can disrupt others and attract unwanted attention to yourself.

5️⃣ Listen Actively: When someone is speaking, listen attentively. Avoid interrupting or showing disinterest.

6️⃣ Present Yourself Appropriately: Dress professionally according to your company's dress code. A solid rule of thumb is that it's better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. It is also crucial to maintain personal hygiene and cleanliness!

7️⃣ Be Mindful of Strong Odors: Avoid wearing or using strong perfumes, colognes, or scented products in shared spaces as they can trigger allergies or annoy colleagues. This also includes foods that may give off strong odor and disrupt others.

8️⃣ Sharing Common Resources: When using shared resources, like the office printer or coffee machine, ensure you are using them responsibly and correctly. Keep in mind refilling empty supplies if you finish them.

The Don'ts:

1️⃣ Avoid Gossip: Refrain from participating in office gossip. Gossip can harm relationships and damage your reputation.

2️⃣ Don't Overuse Personal Devices: Limit personal calls, texting, or social media use during work hours as it can be distracting and unprofessional.

3️⃣ Don’t Ignore Learning Email Etiquette: Use proper email etiquette by avoiding using all caps, excessive exclamation marks, or replying to all when it's not necessary.

4️⃣ Avoid Strong Opinions: Be cautious when discussing sensitive topics like politics or religion. Office is not the place for heated debates.

5️⃣ Don’t Leave a Mess: Be sure to clean up after yourself in common areas!

6️⃣ Don't Disrespect Personal Beliefs: Avoid making assumptions about colleagues' personal beliefs, identity, and attributes. 

7️⃣ Don't Overshare: Maintain a balance between professional and personal life. Avoid oversharing personal details or problems at work.

Understanding office etiquette is the foundation of a healthy work environment and being a great coworker. It's about respecting your colleagues, their space, and their time. By adhering to the do's and avoiding the don'ts, you can contribute to a positive atmosphere, better relationships with coworkers, and overall career satisfaction. Whether you're in a traditional office setting or a remote workspace, these etiquette guidelines remain relevant and help create a professional and comfortable work environment for everyone!