After nearly two years of working from home, many people have grown comfortable with the flexibility of remote work.² Now that many companies are having employees return to the office—at least part of the time—many employees will need to readjust to the in-person office environment.⁴Returning to the office can benefit employees by helping them reestablish the sense of community that comes from being around coworkers in a physical space.⁷ Companies should reinforce the importance of maintaining good office etiquette to ensure that employees are comfortable and that the time they spend in the office is constructive.
The importance of office etiquette
While policies and expectations vary between companies, office etiquette is a generally agreed-upon code of behavior employees should follow in the workplace. Office etiquette defines which behaviors are appropriate and which behaviors employees and employers should avoid.Practicing office etiquette in the workplace lowers conflict rates and creates an environment where employees feel respected. Co-workers are more likely to be engaged and productive when their colleagues understand and follow the same etiquette guidelines and are polite, respectful, and kind.⁹To help you decide which policies are best for your workplace, we’ve compiled a list of helpful in-person or hybrid office etiquette tips.
1. Follow your company’s sick policy
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of workers with access to paid sick leave plans has increased over the past few years as the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased safety precautions in the workplace.¹The health of your coworkers should be one of your top priorities. If your employer offers optional remote work, stay home when you feel under the weather or take the day off to avoid potentially getting any of your team members sick.
2. Use proper email etiquette
Email can be a useful communication tool or a distraction if unnecessary mail fills your inbox. It’s easy to see why employees may dislike receiving emails—the average office worker receives over 100 emails per day.¹¹To make emails as productive as possible, you should:
- Make the important stuff easy to find. Highlight or bold critical segments in emails so the recipient can easily understand the main point.
- Only send emails to those who need the information.
- Don’t blind copy recipients on sensitive emails. Ensuring that recipients are aware of everyone on an email chain can help build trust among team members.10
- Include to-do lists in your emails. If coworkers have any follow-up assignments on information in the email, make their job easier by including a clear list outlining the assignment.
- Write back quickly. Don’t make a coworker wait for a response. Reply promptly and ensure you send all the information they need in your first reply.
3. Use proper meeting etiquette
Team meetings can either be productive or a complete waste of time. One survey showed that 67% of the surveyed workers believed an excess of meetings made it difficult to reach peak performance and only 11% believed every meeting they attended was productive.⁵ To ensure meetings are as productive as possible, you should:
- Listen for pauses before speaking up. This is especially useful for hybrid meetings where some attendees join over a video call. Be careful not to interrupt anyone and wait for a break in the conversation before speaking.
- Respect your co-workers’ time. Don’t schedule unnecessary meetings or stretch out a conversation longer than necessary.
- Focus on the presenter. In-office attendees should keep their phones away and show attentiveness by watching whoever is speaking. Employees joining virtually should keep their cameras on and actively participate to show engagement.
- Arrive on time–and that probably means a few minutes early.
- Share credit and recognize team successes. Team meetings are a great opportunity to recognize standout employees and team-wide performance.
4. Create a sense of community
In a workplace with a strong sense of community, employees watch out for each other, care about events in each other’s lives, and work together to make sense of current events.⁸ To encourage trust, effective communication, and respect, you should:
- Keep personal things personal. Take personal calls in private and protect the privacy of clients and co-workers by storing sensitive information in a secure location.
- Eliminate gossip from office conversations.
- Invite new employees to join your group of office friends.
- Don't assume your co-workers share your political beliefs or worldview. Many Americans are so used to conversing with like-minded peers that they may assume–wrongly–that the rest of the room sees the world the same way they do. In a time when emotions are being tested by current events, it’s critical to be mindful of terms or concepts that may upset those who think differently than you.⁶
5. Become remote-inclusive
Hybrid work has become many employees’ ideal way to work. A 2021 survey conducted by CBRE found that 85% of respondents would prefer to work virtually at least two to three days a week moving forward.²However, the move to a hybrid office hasn’t minimized the importance of in-person work as a space for collaboration and social connection. The push toward remote work combined with the recognition of in-office work has led to a widespread understanding that hybrid offices are becoming the new normal.²Ensuring that virtual employees are visible, engaged, and offered the same opportunities as in-office employees has been one of the biggest difficulties with implementing hybrid work.³ To support remote employees and encourage hybrid office etiquette, you should:
- Include remote employees in essential meetings.
- Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure in-office and remote employee performance equally.
- Reinforce the importance of working in the office on scheduled days. If hybrid employees are assigned to come into the office, they should be held to the same attendance standards as in-office employees.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Paid sick leave benefits factsheet.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 January 2021, https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/factsheet/paid-sick-leave.htm. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- CBRE. “New Normal: The Rise of Hybrid Work.” CBRE, 24 January 2022, https://www.cbre.com/insights/articles/new-normal-the-rise-of-hybrid-work. Accessed 6 May 2022.
- CBRE. “The Next Normal.” CBRE, 16 August 2021, https://www.cbre.com/insights/reports/the-next-normal-how-hybrid-work-will-transform-commercial-real-estate#adoption-challenges. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- CNBC. “Return to office: Why executives are eager for workers to come back.” CNBC, 8 March 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/08/return-to-office-why-executives-are-eager-for-workers-to-come-back.html. Accessed 6 May 2022.
- Forbes. “Most Meetings Are Annoying. Here Are 5 Tips To Running A Great One.” Forbes, 1 December 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/joemoglia/2021/12/01/most-meetings-are-annoying-here-are-5-tips-to-running-a-great-one/?sh=3564f8585999. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- Forbes. “The New Workplace Etiquette: No Zoom Booze, No Politics, Good Eye Contact.” Forbes, 3 March 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2021/03/03/the-new-workplace-etiquette-no-zoom-booze-no-politics-good-eye-contact/?sh=7f90982b4682. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- Forbes. “The Real Reason To Go Back To The Office (Hint: It’s Not For Your Employer).” Forbes, 11 Jul 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2021/07/11/the-real-reason-to-go-back-to-the-office-hint-its-not-for-your-employer/?sh=37a602d717ca. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- Forbes. “Three Steps To Create Community In The Workplace.” Forbes, 29 February 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dedehenley/2020/02/29/the-importance-of-creating-community-in-the-workplace/?sh=531a07b61ed0. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- Indeed. “11 Tips for Practicing Good Office Etiquette.” Indeed, 1 December 2021, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/practicing-good-office-etiquette. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- Indeed. “26 Office Etiquette Rules.” Indeed, 27 May 2021, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/office-etiquette-rules. Accessed 9 May 2022.
- Smith, Craig. “90 Interesting Facts About Email | How Many Emails are Sent Per Day?” DMR, 10 March 2022, https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/email-statistics/. Accessed 9 May 2022.