Give Your Coworkers a Break Room Break


Go to 100 different businesses, and I venture you would find that 99 have some type of break room disputes taking place. Maybe there are few surprises here in this OfficeTeam survey, but it at least confirms what many are experiencing.

Any horror stories to share? Favorites from the tip list below?

Forty-four percent of workers interviewed said making a mess for others to clean up is the most annoying break room behavior.

Workers were asked, “In your opinion, which of the following is the most annoying workplace break room behavior?” Their responses:

  • Making a mess for others to clean up – 44%
  • Stealing a coworker’s food – 19%
  • Leaving expired/spoiled food in the refrigerator – 18%
  • Eating smelly food – 5%
  • Nothing annoying/no break room – 7%
  • Other/don’t know – 7%

“Many people believe their actions in the break room go unnoticed, but subtle behaviors can send a message about an individual’s consideration for others,” said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. “Leaving messes in a common area will have colleagues wondering whether you’re just as careless in other aspects of the job.”

OfficeTeam offers five tips for minding your manners in the lunch room:

  • Remember what your mother told you. If you spill something in the microwave or on the counter, wipe it up. It’s also common courtesy to refill anything you’ve emptied in the kitchen, such as the coffee pot or napkin dispenser.
  • Spare the air. You may love the smell of your famous “seafood surprise,” but your neighbors might not share your enthusiasm. Avoid bringing extremely pungent foods to the office that could offend your colleagues’ olfactory senses.
  • Stake your claim. Label your food with your name and the date. This will ward off break room bandits and make it obvious when the item should be thrown away.
  • Get the hint. Schedule alerts on your calendar so you’ll remember to take home or toss out leftovers or groceries from the refrigerator. This will help free up storage space for coworkers.
  • Do a little dirty work. Clean up around the break room even if someone else created the mess. By simply picking up a piece of trash or wiping a table, you’ll set an example for others to follow and create a more pleasant and potentially safer environment for your colleagues. If you see an ongoing issue with break room etiquette, consider asking management to implement a staff policy or reinforce the rules of conduct.  

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