17 Rules for Good Office Etiquette and How You Can Train for It
Interviews / Opinions

17 Rules for Good Office Etiquette and How You Can Train for It

, Media Relations Coordinator

Since the Return to Office (RTO) mandates have come into effect, remote workers as well as new graduates have been struggling to adjust to office norms.

One thing to remember is that the office a shared space. Which means we inevitably need to conform to a few “unwritten” rules that allow us to be respectful and mindful of others.

In this way, we can create a harmonious workplace which is pleasant for everyone and fosters a culture of collaboration and productivity.

Let’s dive into the essentials of proper office etiquette and see how it can help us build a more supportive and harmonious office culture.

What is office etiquette and why is it important?

Office etiquette is all about the rules for interacting with colleagues at work.

It goes beyond simple manners—it’s about fostering a respectful and cooperative atmosphere.

From the way meetings are run and conflicts are handled, to sharing spaces and managing communications, office etiquette covers it all.

It plays a crucial role in making sure everyone on the team feels valued, respected, and understood. And it fosters an inclusive and collaborative culture, free of workplace conflicts.

There are many tips around office etiquette. But to build a healthy office environment for the long-term, it’s important to incorporate such practices as part of your onboarding and ongoing training.

Let’s look at some basic office etiquette rules and how the relevant training can help create a prosperous office environment.

17 Rules for Good Office Etiquette and How You Can Train for It

Office etiquette rules

1. Be punctual

Being on time is key to keeping things professional. Whether it’s arriving by 9AM sharp at the office, or joining meetings on the dot, it demonstrates commitment to your responsibilities and consideration of everyone’s time. Plus, it starts the day off right, and helps ensure everything runs on schedule.

2. Dress appropriately

I’m sure we’d all love to wear our sweats and flip-flops to work, but is it appropriate? Probably not.

Following your office’s dress code shows your professionalism and respect for the workplace culture.

Now, depending on your company or role, the rules may be different. However, taking care of your appearance is a simple, yet effective way to make a good impression and demonstrate your commitment every day.

3. Be respectful

This rule is all about showing kindness and professionalism to everyone, appreciating their contributions, and avoiding disrespectful behaviors. Respect in the workplace fosters a positive culture and promotes collaboration among team members.

Similarly, being considerate is also a sign of respect.

Thinking about how your actions affect others, minimizing noise, private phone calls, and handling shared resources carefully are all aspects of being considerate. This professional behavior enhances the work experience for everyone and helps maintain a calm and productive office environment.

4. Greet everyone

When you arrive in the morning, make a point to say “Good morning” to your team and others you meet on your way to your desk.

Such a simple act helps foster a friendly and inclusive office environment, making people feel recognized and valued. It nurtures interpersonal relationships and contributes to a positive and welcoming work atmosphere.

5. Practice meeting etiquette

It’s very likely that we’ve all attended a meeting that began 10 minutes late, patiently waiting on people to join. And to add insult to injury, the meeting ran late due to a lack of preparation.

This is why meeting etiquette is important. What does this mean?

  • Being punctual
  • Having a dedicated agenda
  • Coming prepared with notes and ideas
  • Actively listening without interrupting
  • Making eye contact while someone is speaking

This preparation shows respect and consideration for the meeting’s purpose and everyone’s time.

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6. Provide clarity on your availability

When working from home, the guideline was to always be responsive through email, Slack or Teams.

The office should be no different. You may be stuck in a meeting or working on a difficult task.

Whatever the case may be, provide clarity about your availability—either through your calendar or your status.

7. Bridge gaps between office and remote interactions

The immediacy of the office may make collaborations more efficient, however, a large part of the workforce is still working remotely.

Make a conscious effort to keep your remote peers in the loop about anything going on in the office that is relevant to them. This will ensure everyone is on the same page.

8. Communicate effectively to avoid conflicts

Clear communication minimizes confusion and promotes straightforward and effective information sharing. We know this.

But, it is also crucial for maintaining respect and professionalism with coworkers through a constructive and calm approach.

Effective conflict resolution preserves good relationships and promotes a harmonious work environment.

So, next time you disagree with a colleague, avoid the knee-jerk reaction of saying “That’s a bad idea”. Instead, say “Let’s explore other options that might also work well.” And if the nature of your disagreement is more personal, make sure to handle it in a more private setting like a dedicated meeting.

9. Be aware of non-verbal cues

Communication isn’t simply about what we say. It’s also about what we do.

Communicating through a camera has reduced our ability to effectively control our body language in person. A condescending eye roll, a shrug, a lengthy sigh—these are things we have mastered at hiding through switched off cameras and muted mics.

Be mindful of any non-verbal cues that you exhibit during collaborative settings to keep misunderstandings to a minimum.

10. Use shared resources responsibly

It’s very easy for us to get carried away and assume that everything in the office is public property. But, just as you hope to find some milk for your coffee, or plenty of toilet paper in the bathroom, everyone has a similar expectation.

Ensuring that shared office supplies and spaces are used responsibly and left in good condition for others is key to maintaining a considerate work environment. This encourages a sense of community and mutual respect among coworkers.

11. Be mindful of space

In this day and age, open-plan office spaces are very popular. Probably because its aim is to foster a sense of equality and collaboration. However, it can be really uncomfortable when some people take over larger desk areas and allow little room for others.

Be mindful of the space both you and others have to be comfortable and productive.

The same goes for meeting rooms. If you’ve got an upcoming 1:1, opt for booking a smaller room rather than one that can host up to ten people.

Being considerate of how much space you take up in the office and avoiding overstepping others’ work areas helps maintain a comfortable environment for everyone. This mindfulness supports clear personal boundaries and ensures a harmonious workspace.

12. Avoid gossip and respect your coworkers’ privacy

Gossip can have a significant impact on a workplace, with the potential to turn it into a toxic environment very quickly.

Therefore, don’t dig into coworkers’ personal life issues or speak negatively of them. This approach helps build trust among coworkers.

Yes, social interactions in the workplace are important, but they shouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Steer clear from sensitive topics (health issues, relationship status, political views to name a few) that could bring up feelings of discomfort and could even be considered harassment.

13. Secure confidential documents

Security and compliance are two critical aspects of today’s corporate world. And even though we’re quite familiar with the respective online rules and regulations, we may be a bit rusty when it comes to replicating them in an office setting.

So, just a quick refresher… Always store sensitive files in locked cabinets or drawers and log off your computer when you’re away from your desk to protect confidential information.

14. Offer help to others

Helping out a coworker when they need it can really boost teamwork and support in the office. This not only solves issues quickly but also helps everyone feel more connected as a team.

If you notice a coworker struggling to meet a deadline, offer your assistance or share resources that might help them.

15. Stay home when unwell

This goes without saying, but it’s important that you stay home if you’re feeling ill. Prioritizing your health and that of your colleagues ensures a healthy work environment. It also reduces the widespread sickness in the office, which could impact productivity.

16. Keep it clean and tidy

Having a clean and tidy desk and office space has its benefits. Besides the obvious one, which is to reduce the spread of germs, working in a well-kept space improves productivity.

Decluttering your space helps you avoid unnecessary distractions that can hinder your effectiveness. Regularly organize your desk, dispose of old coffee cups, and file away documents to keep your area neat and accessible.

This will not only boost your productivity, but it will show your coworkers that you are a well-organized and thoughtful individual.

17. Be mindful of smells

Ever experienced a pungent odor emanating from the office kitchen while you’re working? Well, if you have, then you know that it can be really unpleasant, not to mention distracting.

That’s not to say that you cannot eat whatever you like in the office. But, you need to be mindful of the impact it may have on your coworkers, as everyone has a different reaction to strong scents.

So to be mindful, you may want to avoid certain foods and perfumes, while being aware of the importance of personal hygiene.

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The dos and don’ts of workplace etiquette

There are indeed a number of things to keep in mind when returning to the office. But, that doesn’t mean it has to be overwhelming.

We’ve consolidated all the rules for proper workplace etiquette in a handy list to help navigate RTOs.

  • Be punctual and arrive on time to the office and meetings
  • Be thorough with your personal hygiene and follow the dress code
  • Keep your workspace neat and respect shared spaces
  • Be respectful to your coworkers in the way you speak and carry yourself around them
  • Communicate effectively and be mindful of your body language to avoid conflicts
  • Avoid gossip and keep interactions on a professional level
  • Greet everyone to maintain positive relationships and build rapport

Training your employees in office etiquette

Even though you can use this article as your guideline, it’s important to make office etiquette an essential part of your onboarding and ongoing training process.

Training in office etiquette is key to a positive workplace environment for all. Here are two practical ways to train and strengthen good office manners among employees:

Using space architecture to train employees on office etiquette rules

The design of office space can greatly influence office etiquette by providing visual and practical reminders. By thoughtfully arranging the layout and using signage, you can foster an environment that naturally promotes good manners. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Putting up signs: Use clear, friendly signage around the office to remind employees of key etiquette practices. For instance, signs in the kitchen might remind employees to clean up after themselves, while signs in meeting rooms could prompt them to check that the room is tidy before they leave.
  • Informing people on communication tools: Using tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to send gentle reminders about office etiquette. For example, a weekly tip or reminder about office etiquette can be posted in a common channel, promoting practices like respecting focus times or booking meeting rooms in advance.
  • Labeling things: Clearly label supplies to help maintain order and cleanliness. Labels can show where items go, how to use the equipment correctly, or remind employees to replace items they finish. This not only helps keep the office clean but also simplifies following basic office etiquette rules by reducing the mental effort needed from employees.

Using employee training platforms and ready-made courses

Leveraging technology and eLearning tools can be highly effective in training employees on office etiquette:

  • Employee training platforms: Using an employee training platform for workplace etiquette training is essential for making sure all employees have access to training. These platforms serve as a central hub for managing, delivering, and monitoring office etiquette training. They offer various tools like interactive modules and videos to enhance communication and collaboration skills. Plus, with AI-powered learning platforms, you can quickly and automatically tailor training materials to include the relevant guidelines for your specific needs.
  • Ready-made courses: Employers can sign up their teams for pre-built courses that focus on key office etiquette rules, like email etiquette or conflict resolution. These courses often feature video tutorials, quizzes, and interactive sessions that help everyone learn and practice important skills like professionalism, privacy respect, and clear communication.

Office etiquette for a thriving workplace

Workplace etiquette is more than just a set of rules—it’s the backbone of a thriving workplace, especially as we embrace new norms in returning to the office or adjusting to hybrid setups.

By leaning into these practices and investing in ongoing office etiquette training, businesses can boost productivity and ensure everyone feels included and valued. With positivity and kindness at the forefront, we can transform our workplaces into environments people want to be in, not just have to be in.

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Giota Gavala - Media Relations Coordinator

Giota holds a Computer Science and MBA degree. She loves to blend data with expert insights to craft compelling HR/L&D content and secure media placements in top-tier publications.

Giota Gavala LinkedIn

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