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We spend a lot of time in the office. On average, a 40- to 50-hour work week means we spend about half of our waking hours with coworkers. And unfortunately, we are universally annoyed by our officemates’ bad behavior, according to a 2017 study from Olivet Nazarene University. From loud talkers to poor meeting etiquette, here are the five most common bad habits in the workplace and suggestions on how to remedy them.
Talking too loudly
Open office spaces may look pretty, but they can be an acoustic nightmare. While it’s not always the offender’s fault, it’s clear that some people speak much louder than others. Thankfully, it’s a relatively easy fix for those that fall in this category. Know you’ve got a long call ahead? Schedule a conference room or other private area so you can speak in your phone voice without annoying your cubemates who put on noise cancelling headphones each time your phone rings. In addition to being mindful, be direct with your co-workers and ask if you voice is too loud. If it is, acknowledge that you’ll work on solutions.
Calling too many meetings
Do you call meetings for things that could be cleared up with a 5-minute phone call? Or perhaps a member of your team always invites far too many people to meetings where two or three stakeholders could hash out a plan. If this is the case, consider your own actions. Take a step back and ask if you really need a meeting or if a quick email, with very direct and clear next steps, will be as effective. If it’s a close co-worker who is the culprit, why not suggest alternate meeting actions over a friendly coffee break. It’s often the case that they may not fully realize what they are doing or may not be confident enough to make decisions on their own, and that’s the root cause of the meeting overload.
Eating at your desk
Slurping soup at your desk may not seem like a big deal while you scroll through your Instagram feed, but it’s one of the worst things you can do in the office. In addition to circulating funky smells (please, don’t reheat salmon in the microwave, either) it can be distracting to others around you. Maybe your cube mate can’t get to lunch for another hour because they are stuck on a deadline and now their stomach grumbles while you devour your perfect slice of pizza. It’s not just bad for those around you, there are plenty of personals reasons to stop eating at your desk. Studies have shown that you eat more, make poor food choices and sit for longer periods of time if you don’t take a proper food break.
Not enough scent sense
Don’t be so quick to assume that foul smells are the worst in an office. While you might think that coming back to work after mid-afternoon spin class without showering is the worst you can do, think again. Strong perfume or cologne is by far a more popular complaint. And it’s not always a matter of simply spraying it on too heavy. There’s a growing percentage of the population with sensitivity and allergies to chemical odors that are added to everything from shampoo to cleaning products. While you may find it mildly annoying for HR to ask you to refrain from spraying air freshener, that same scent may trigger debilitating migraines for others nearby.
Coming to work sick
Staying home sick isn’t always an option, but for those who work in office environments and have sick days, please take them when needed. If there are important calls or meetings, move them to a virtual space or book a conference call. There’s a large body of evidence supporting the benefit of staying home when sick. It’s not just that your cough is annoying co-workers, but you are likely to make them sick, too, even if you cover your nose when you sneeze. Think of all the surfaces you touch, like the fridge, microwave and door handles. In addition, companies see a plunge in productivity when half the office is sick, and you’re only prolonging your own ill health by not getting enough rest.
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.