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Danila Petrova
Danila Petrova

Posted on • Updated on

How to Make the Most of Office Etiquette as a Programmer

In the software development industry, chances are that you are working in an overall good environment. The companies hold onto their employees, as the demand is high but the supply of competent and reliable programmers is far from sufficient. Providing a good working space is at the top of the list by the IT industry hiring standards. So is supplying other benefits like snacks and sometimes lunch. Not to mention having access to high-quality coffee - let’s be honest this is the developers’ preferred fuel. That comes in addition to a dedicated dining room and a space to relax and take a break.

So in my experience as a part of of a java software development company, the office conditions are not ones to complain about too much. However, this does not in any way mean that the developers do not need to take care of their own behaviour in the office. Etiquette seems to be a bit of an afterthought in modern society, so here are a few tips on what is accepted as appropriate in the workplace.

Respect personal space

This should go without saying, but respecting the personal space of others is key in a professional environment. So especially, on the occasion when someone is showing you signals they need you to respect their personal space, you should be respectful to that.

Also, on the occasion, where you have communicated with someone that they are being too friendly, and they do not take that remark, it is completely valid to take this situation with your superiors.

Friends are often made at work, however, you should always account for the boundaries others may set. The same way you would like to have yours respected in return. So maybe don't go hugging someone who clearly showed you they feel uncomfortable when you do that.

Eating and Consumption in the Working Area

For one, most offices have a dedicated kitchen or dining area. So naturally, it is the place to go when you are enjoying a meal. However, we all know that we enjoy an occasional snack on our desk while working. Especially when we are in a groove with our work, or cramming to meet our deadlines. And there is nothing wrong with that!

There are a few things to be mindful of in order to be a considerate colleague to those around you when it comes to eating on your desk. First up is not being loud. So maybe consider that chips are not the best office food. That goes for the type of package that is loud to open. And so does for loud crunching on your crispy snack.

The next thing we have to mention is eating foods that have a strong smell, as it has a tendency to cling on the fabrics, and is also rude to those who have not yet gone out to eat! Such things would be recently delivered warm food, butter, garlic, popcorn and so on.

Try not to be slurping on liquids too! Stay hydrated, but make sure to remember basic manners as you go about it and not be disruptive. It is rare, to be called out for it, but that does not mean you should let yourself be inconsiderate to the other people in the room who are trying to concentrate.

And the most important thing of all. Sharing! Treat your colleagues to the snack and maybe they will forget all about you interrupting their work.

Talking in the office

Usually, offices have a dedicated space for breaks and some even have small booths or rooms you can use when you talk on the phone. So you should take advantage of the conditions provided to you. The goal is for you to be able to carry out your needed communication, without it being disruptive to your colleague’s work and concentration.

This is not to take away from chatting with your colleagues as a great way for overall teamwork bonding. But when it comes to the workflow, this sort of interruption could be bad for you. I am in no way saying you should not do that. But rather do it in the break room, or while you are waiting for your coffee to be made. Take your conversation out of the working area to provide better conditions for those still working. There you can laugh, tell jokes or partake in casual chit chat with no negative consequences whatsoever.

Being loud in the office is generally not accepted well, so while you socialize with your colleagues, try to do so, by keeping in mind you are still in a working environment.

Desk Appearance

The great thing about your desk is that it is your own. Aside from not leaving confidential details around, chances are you can choose how you want it to be decorated.

Still, there are some general tips you should follow for the sake of professional appearance and hygiene. For starters, avoid leaving food around. Or if you keep a snack on your desk, keep it in a lunchbox or a drawer, well-packed so it does not leave crumbs or aroma in your area. That, of course, includes remembering to consume your food while it is fresh or throw it out if you feel it will end up spoiling before you get a chance to.

Work Area Etiquette

Have you met programmers who have a fidgeting habit of typing something and deleting it while they think? Or other habits that include rhythmically tapping a pen, on the desk or keyboard. If you are one of those people and this helps you focus, consider grabbing a silent fidget cube. Likely you can exercise your habit without being disruptive.

If you are in an open office type of environment chances are you can see your colleague’s monitors. Aside from the times they ask you to check something or work together, you should stick to your own. No need to cause people to feel uneasy.

And speaking of uneasy, the cold-hot office wars seem to be raging at all times. Temperature control can usually be moderated by the employees, however, you should be considerate when tweaking the settings. If you blast it on cold in the summer, you could end up getting yourself or a colleague sick. At the same time raising the temperature too high without confirming with the other people in the room is not much better. Sweating in your warm winter clothes and then heading out will get you sick as easily as the cold current.

Wage your wars diplomatically - talk to your colleagues and come to an acceptable compromise with a temperature that is acceptable to all.

The Importance of Office Workplace Manners

Most of the tips above seem very common sense. And they can be considered just that. But the purpose of this article is to serve as a reminder to be just a little bit more mindful. While etiquette used to be one of the most important things in society, nowadays it is, in fact, an afterthought. Something people build when they become inclined to, rather than as a necessity to be integrated with others.

Do you think that this type of unspoken rules should be upheld in a professional setting? What is your biggest pet-peeve when it comes to how employees behave? What is something that people do at work and bothers you?

Make sure to add on to the discussion below in the comments!

Top comments (1)

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Robin Palotai • Edited

Nice! Thankfully our spaces were moved around in the office once or twice a year. Otherwise my desk would have accumulated enough debris to assemble a spaceship launch station ;)