What is office etiquette and why is it important?

In the last 14 or so months, we’ve seen the working world go through rapid and significant change. Change that is set to become the new normal in many industries – from the manner in which we interact with each other through to where we carry out our work from.

However, with those changes come some fundamental principles that remain largely consistent across the professional space, one of those being the need for a certain set of standards and behaviours in the workplace – otherwise known as office etiquette. Office etiquette is an essential facet to running a business harmoniously and successfully, but what exactly does it dictate in 2021?

What is office etiquette?

Every workplace has its rules – a non-negotiable law of the land as set out in every new starter contract. Beyond those terms in writing, though, are often a set of unwritten rules that set expectations in relation to our social behaviours and professionalism day-to-day, and it’s this code that is often defined as office etiquette.

Much of good office etiquette boils down to common sense, good manners and treating the job and those around you with a certain level of respect. Although relatively consistent across industries, there’s no rigid definition of good etiquette in the workplace, instead any given company’s sense of what they consider proper etiquette can often be found in their code of conduct.

Some examples of good office etiquette are:

  • Using polite and respectful language in the office, avoiding swearing.
  • Remembering team members’ names and the correct pronunciation of them.
  • Having an appropriate sense of humour in office – knowing the audience you’re making a joke to.
  • Being respectful across all forms of office communication, be it face-to-face, e-mail or phone.
  • Dressing appropriately for the role and office setting – for example, choosing the right women’s tops.

The benefits of operating with a collective sense of etiquette

A sense of etiquette in the workplace is a fundamental element in ensuring the office is a friendly, welcoming place to be for every member of staff, not to mention a key part of keeping all employee’s happy and comfortable in their role.

Office etiquette promotes a number of positive cultural themes:

  • The creation of a professional, respectful work setting.
  • The creation of an atmosphere that encourages good working practices, such as good communication and consistently professional behaviours.
  • Staff feel comfortable and respected in their role and their workspace.
  • Elimination of poor and disrespectful behaviour that could negatively impact the business.
  • Creation of a positive business reputation at both a client and employee level.

Adapting etiquette to the modern office

The world of business is constantly adapting, and even the more constant principles behind running a successful business must be adjusted according to changing attitudes to work and interactions with our colleagues. As such, traditional standards of etiquette cannot stand still, otherwise they’ll become outdated and counterproductive.

As we’ve already established, “good office etiquette” can differ from industry to industry and business to business, but here are a few markers for change that modern etiquette should be based on in all workplaces:

  • Encouraging employees who are ill to stay home rather than “tough it out” and come in.
  • Increasing awareness, understanding and consideration of mental health issues.
  • Consideration for emerging marginalised groups within the workplace – encouraging understanding for concepts like gender fluidity/non-binary.
  • Consideration for individual and collective social media presence and perception.

Every business can adapt their own etiquette to suit their needs, and while many basic manner elements will remain consistent across every office, business owners should be cognisant to the particular nuances of etiquette their organisation can benefit from. Develop the right standards of behaviour in your office, and you’ll have ticked off one of the most fundamental principles behind any successful company.

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