Bad office habits in the digital age

Losing friends and alienating people in the office through bad office habits

The world of work is changing, that’s no secret. From telecommuting to open floor plans and standing desks, the cubicles of the past are no longer an all encompassing norm. One consequence of these changes is the close quarters people find themselves in, making workplace etiquette more important than ever. The walls of cubicles insulated workers from others’ troublesome habits, which now have been brought out in the open. This even rings true for digital workspaces, where communication needs to be precise and evaluated thanks to a lack of voice tone and body language leaving the written word open for misinterpretation.

Has this affected the way people feel about their colleagues??

It seems today’s open plan office is a hotbed of bad habits, which could be driving colleagues mad. A recent Interact survey of HR and internal communications professionals across the globe revealed that BO, loud personal calls and smelly lunches are the three worst workplace habits. Just over 42% of respondents cited body odor as the worst office offense, with loud personal calls coming in second at 22% and smelly food at almost 16%. Nose picking came in at over 12%, while the least offensive of the blunders was coughing at 8%.

bad office habits food
While hygiene can be an issue, some of the most serious violations happen online rather than in person, where written communication is often the only form that people experience. Clarity and thoughtfulness in writing then become of the utmost importance to avoid crossed signals or hurt feelings. Emails can easily take on an unintentionally harsh tone, or the instantaneous nature of online collaboration can lead workers to procrastinate requests to the point of inconveniencing those they’re asking for help. This strains intra or interoffice relationships and communication, potentially making teammates reluctant to work together. At the very least, it doesn’t promote cohesion.

What can be done?

bad office habits conversation
The death of the traditional office doesn’t have to mean the death of etiquette or teamwork. New styles of working present wonderful opportunities for even more productive communication and collaboration than ever before. The key is to be respectful of others. Hygiene and serenity are necessary when working with someone in person, and as humorous as some of those complaints may sound, they should still be taken seriously. On the other side of the coin, being physically separated from someone and communicating electronically are no reasons to stop being polite. If anything, they necessitate even closer attention to manners seeing as how flippant comments and suggestions can be understood very differently from how they were intended.

Communication is key in this environment

Coworkers should get to know one another, through sharing at the office or blogging over their intranet if they are remote. Collaborative work should be rewarded, and everyone must feel that they can discuss concerns or give feedback openly and in a positive, encouraging setting.

Most of all, listen. Listen to your employees if you are a leader, listen to your coworkers if you’re a member of a team. Listening and making others feel listened to doesn’t only decrease the chances of bothering someone with a bad habit. It opens up your office to increased collaboration and productivity, as well as increasing the likelihood of high quality output for your team.