Open Office Environment Etiquette

I recently had a discussion with my brother about how his company is moving his workspace to an open environment. He just turned 38, which puts him into Generation X. His reaction to the open environment is one that we hear over and over again with our clients – he is not happy about it and doesn’t understand how it could make the workplace better.

I explained that open office environments have many benefits, especially if the company establishes proper “ground rules” that everyone follows. It’s important to understand this new workplace etiquette so everyone can take advantage of the benefits of an open environment.


While open environments tend to promote collaboration, many individuals can find noise distracting. Here are a few of tips to help reduce noise and respect your coworkers.

  • Respect the use of headphones – They are not a sign of disrespect or intentional isolation. It’s likely that the person needs to concentrate on the task at hand. If you see headphones, respect their heads-down time.
  • Wear headphones – If you like to listen to music, wear headphones so everyone around you doesn’t have to hear it.
  • Take conversations away from your desk. Whether it is a personal phone call or discussion with coworkers, take it away from others. Go into a small meeting room, phone booth, or collaboration space away from everyone else. Haworth’s Openest allows for quick conversations while providing acoustical walls to combat sound.
  • Install sound masking systems (white sound that sounds similar to HVAC), such as Dynasound, to lessen overall workplace noise.


You should always keep your workplace tidy, but in an open environment, it’s even more important because others have to see the mess.

  • Put your work away daily. Use accessories such as Haworth’s Belong and Active Components to organize files, binders, and personal items.
  • Wash your dirty dishes or throw away your disposable dishware when you’re finished eating – don’t let dirty dishes accumulate at your desk.
  • Store personal items in coat closets or lockers. Don’t leave your coat on the back of your chair, your shoes under your desk, or your backpack/purse out on your desk – it makes the entire space seem messy.


Odor in the workplace can be a touchy subject, so it’s especially important to follow these tips in an open environment.

  • Practice good hygiene. 
  • Use little or no perfumes.
  • Apply scented lotion in the restroom.
  • Be mindful of what you eat. Although you think it smells delicious, other may find it revolting.

Because we work differently than we did 25 years ago, it’s important to understand these new issues. Involving all employees to determine what the workplace etiquette should be is just one of the many change management ideas we talk about with clients. When employees move to an open environment, many may not know these best practices. Help your employees understand the new workplace etiquette. It will make for a more welcome and productive open environment.



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People, ProductsStephannie Chyz