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9 Office Etiquette Tips for Open-Plan Workspaces

Over the past decade open-plan workspaces have gained popularity across the country despite studies showing that they're not in workers' favor. 

It's an office design concept that encourages collaborating together and a smooth flow of information from peer to peer. However, with an open-plan workspace comes a few new etiquette tips that you may want to practice so you can mitigate its downsides.

These tips can help ensure that everyone is comfortable and able to get their work done in a timely manner. 

1. Be Mindful of Your Noise Level 

Open-plan workspaces don't have a lot of buffers for noise, and people cause distractions as they move around and work together. This can make it very hard for people to hear important phone calls, conference calls or to concentrate on their work. 

It's essential that you're mindful of your own volume. Speak at an indoor level, set your phone's ringer on silent or so it's not as loud as it can possibly be, and have extended conversations away from the workspace. If you enjoy listening to music, always bring headphones. 

2. Consider a Separate Meeting Space 

If you have a lot of group meetings, webinars, or conference calls, consider having a separate space for these activities, like an office meeting pod. It should be closed off from the open workspace. This will provide a buffer for your group to complete their calls and webinars without interrupting your coworkers who are working on different projects. 

This room will allow your brainstorming sessions to go on as long as they need to without disrupting anyone. 

3. Keep Scents to a Minimum 

Some of your coworkers may be extremely sensitive to smells. This can include things like perfumes, air fresheners, colognes and scented lotions. Make sure if you wear or use these products that they're not strong enough to cause problems for people around you. 

This goes for your lunch, too. Things like tuna, salmon, or eggs can all carry a stronger scent that lingers, and it may cause some of your coworkers to get queasy. 

4. Respect Everyone's Privacy 

There isn't much seclusion when it comes to open-plan workspaces. You may think that your coworkers are eavesdropping on every conversation you have or that they're watching everything you do. 

It's important that you respect everyone's privacy. If you plan on having a sensitive conversation, have it away from the workspace. Also, keep your eyes on your own work and not on your coworker's browser tabs.  Modern office phone booths can help alleviate some of these issues. 

5. Keep Your Space Neat 

Since open office plans don't generally give you a set space to call your own, you'll want to keep the areas that you do work neat and clean. Start by wiping off your desk or work area once a week, and don't leave food wrappers or empty cups when you're done.  

You also don't want to clutter up communal desk space either. Keep your papers organized and put them away when they're not needed.

6. Don't Steal Other People's Supplies 

You could argue that the supplies are shared since it's an open-plan workspace. However, if you run out of office items, don't just reach over and take whatever you need from the next desk. 

This is about respecting your neighbor's property. Keep a good supply of pens, pencils, sticky notes, tape, and staples on hand so you don't run out. 

7. Be Considerate of Your Coworkers 

If you can see that a coworker is busy or in the middle of a phone call, don't interrupt them unless it's an emergency. You don't want to invade their space, hover and stare at them either. Instead, wait until they're free before you approach their work area. 

Pretend that there is a door there and it's closed until you can see that they're not preoccupied. 

8. Help Keep the Workspace Running

Every open-plan workspace is  going to have communal printers, garbage cans, and supplies. If you see that the printer is low or out of ink, change the cartridge or put in a request for someone to do so. Be a team player!

If you see a garbage can is overflowing or full, empty it. Also, if you take the last of any supplies, mention something or put in a request for more. 

9. Practice Good Hygiene 

In these office styles you're working in very close quarters with the rest of your coworkers, so having good hygiene is a must. 

If other people use your desk, make sure that it's not sticky or that there aren't crumbs anywhere. Keep a supply of hand sanitizer on your desk and use it throughout the day to stop germs from spreading. 

Also, you don't want to come to work if you're sick. An open-plan workspace can increase the risk of catching a cold or whatever illness is currently making its rounds to your coworkers. 

These 9 simple etiquette tips can help to ensure that you're as productive as you can be in your open-plan workspace. Although a lot of these suggestions can be considered common sense, they're easy to overlook when you're concentrating on your projects. Implement them, make sure that all of your colleagues know about them, and by doing so your open-plan workspace will thrive. 

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