Open plan doesn’t mean it’s open season on office etiquette!

In recent years, there has been a definite trend away from closed offices to open plan workspaces, even when it comes to senior management. Hot desking is another newish phenomenon, which takes the open plan concept to the next level and involves allocating desks to workers as and when they are required, or on a rota system, instead of giving each worker their own desk.  In the project management world, there are very obvious advantages to having the entire team up close and personal but there are some golden rules that should be followed to ensure that harmony prevails.

There are few things more irritating than trying to work and having co-workers laughing and chatting loudly in the cubicle next door. Keep it down, whether you are on the phone or having a discussion with a colleague; respect your co-workers and, if necessary, take the discussion out of the common area.

Treat your co-workers’ desks as if they were their private offices – don’t borrow their stationery without asking, don’t thumb through their paperwork, don’t help yourself to their snacks and don’t join in their conversations uninvited.

If you are sick, work from home instead of bringing your germs into the office – in open plan spaces there’s no getting away from a coughing, spluttering colleague!

Consider your colleagues’ noses…not everyone will enjoy your strong new cologne or fish and chip lunch as much as you do! Avoid wearing strong smelling perfume and colognes (it could even trigger some colleagues’ allergies); and take your food to the designated eating area – it’s better for you to take short breaks in any event.

Keep your workspace tidy, a messy eyesore will affect the entire team’s mojo; and, if you are hot desking, be sure to leave the desk as you found it. Even if you subscribe to the maxim that a messy desk is a sign of genius, at least tidy your desk before you leave for the day.

Adjust your mobile phone alerts – the entire team doesn’t need to know every time you get a message.

Working in close quarters can build team spirit, foster creativity and enable easy communication but it can also cause a great deal of friction. Get the most out of your open plan space by being a good “neighbour”; learning to read co-workers’ body language (knowing when to brainstorm and when to retreat) and investing in some ear plugs and stream your favourite music if you are easily distracted.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.
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