Etiquette for the Modern Office
The concept of office etiquette isn’t to have a stringent set of rules everyone must follow to be a part of a particular decorum, but rather to create an environment of comfort and ease for everyone who comes into your office. It’s a code of guiding principles that represent your personal brand or your corporate brand.
Developing an office etiquette policy is important not only because it ensures the greatest amount of comfort for all people in the office,but also because it ensures that you have consciously put together a guiding set of principles that reflect your brand. As a company, each individual employee is a brand ambassador, and every point of contact they have with one another and with people outside your company is a representation of the brand.
It’s easy to be under the misconception that how you represent your brand is only important to people outside the corporation, but it should trickle down to everything you do internally and externally. It’s the internal commitment to protecting the brand that creates an authentic experience.
Here are some office etiquette tips you may want to include in your policy:
Dress code. It’s really important that how employees dress each day is an accurate representation of the brand. Always dress for the client, because you never know when they are going to see you — even if they never speak to you. The leadership of your organization should set the tone for dress code, and employees should follow. If the CEO wears a suit every day, employees should dress accordingly. For example, if your company’s primary clientele demographic is musicians, it would be appropriate for employees to dress in jeans and t-shirts. If the clients are investment bankers, employees should dress in a suit every day. At bauhaus, we fall somewhere between business casual and business professional. In our employee handbook there are descriptions and examples of what that looks like — this helps everyone get on the same page.
Workspace. Just like your website, your social media and all things in the digital space are representative of your brand. So are all spaces in your 3-D workspace. Employees should keep their desks clear of clutter. While it’s important that all employees feel comfortable at their own workspace and have a sense of identity there, their space should not be cluttered or messy. After all, they are representing the brand. This is even more crucial in today’s open office as this type of work environment is highly visible and therefore it should lead the way in the representation of the brand. We function as the Knoll Showroom in the Design District, but we are a working showroom. There are no strict rules about how much “stuff” you can have on your desk, but we do try to keep things clean. Like a good president should, Ron always leads by example.
Clearing your desk before you go home for the day helps keep your desk clean—it also sets you up for a fresh start tomorrow.
Eating. In an open environment, employees should always eat in the break room and never at their desks. Food in the workspace diminishes the professionalism of the entire environment and brings an odor into the entire environment that isn’t representative of the brand (or pleasing to all people). Taking a break from your desk is a good thing – never underestimate the value of taking a few minutes to get away from your desk and recharge.
Sound. In open work environments there can be a false sense of privacy, keep in mind that even if you can’t see other people from where you’re sitting doesn’t mean they can’t hear you. 64” high panels are particularly deceiving as they provide just enough height to give workers the sense of not being exposed, but in reality they are exposed and everyone can see and hear what they are doing.
The bottom line is that every single person in a corporation is a brand ambassador. Employees should not only submit to, but be proud of the fact that how they represent the brand is as important as how the company logo represents the brand. Office etiquette should be viewed as a brand issue, intended to protect all people in the brand, not a strict set of rules for people to follow.