Office kitchen etiquette: the unspoken rules that everyone should know

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The office is maybe not our favourite place to spend our free time, just maybe. For most of us, chatting with colleagues and accomplishing targets is great but what we’re all looking forward to is lunch time! The day is highlighted by Tea in the morning, toast and jam at 11 and microwaved leftovers for lunch. Here are our definitive rules on eating at work - and keeping everyone happy at the same time. 

Never ever eat food that is not yours 
Most office kitchens have a small fridge where you can store your lunch. You should always assume that a lunch box or other food belongs to someone else, and hence not for you to eat. Some items are understood to be shared - such as milk, salt or maybe jam, but it is always a good idea to check first. This rule also applies to condiments such as tomato sauce, Tobasco or mayonnaise. 

Think about space
Be considerate about how much space you take up in the fridge. This is not the place to store your groceries, a bottle of wine or an large cake box full of goodies that you are taking home later.

Clean up after yourself
Some large offices may have a helper who will wash the dishes and make sure the bin is emptied on a daily basis, but if there is no one with this job in your office, it is your own responsibility to clean up after yourself. It is not women’s work and it is not the intern's job - it is your job to wash up your own dishes. Just because you’re the boss, doesn’t mean that you are too good to clean a coffee cup. 

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Let's talk about food with strong odours
There is a lot of discussion about what is appropriate food to bring to work, and the fear is often that the smell of our foods will offend those around us. We firmly believe that you should be able to eat whatever the heck you want to without fear of shame or judgement, but there are also ways to be considerate about it. 

If you are eating at your desk, then you should consider avoiding foods with pungent odours such as boiled eggs, tuna fish or curry as others around you may be trying to concentrate on their work. If you love eating an egg and mayo sandwich for lunch (yum!) then the place to eat it is in the communal eating area, staff canteen or the area adjacent to the kitchen. On that note: 

Don’t comment on what your colleague is eating
Everyone’s food is their own business. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, and peering into someone's lunch box is like looking into their home. Foods that are delicious for your coworker may disgust you, but you should never shame them for their food choices. Similarly, you should never shame colleagues about whether you think it is healthy or not, how much food they eat or how much (or little) their food costs. It has nothing to do with you. 

Office kitchen etiquette


When you use the second last of anything, tell someone
If the milk is almost finished, or the sugar is almost all used up then you should tell someone who is responsible for stocking the kitchen, usually the Office Manager. There is nothing worse than going to make a cup of coffee, and there is no milk left. 

Save water
The benefit of this rule is that it also helps to reduce washing up later. Most of us can keep one coffee mug for the whole day, and use it 3 or 4 times over. Eat your lunch out of your lunch box instead of dirtying a plate or bowl unnecessarily. 

Do your colleagues irritate you with their lunchtime habits? Let us know in the comments below:


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