How to be professional: A guide to office etiquette

The average full-time UK employee spends 39.1 hours per week at work - that's an awful long time if you don't get on with your colleagues. The last thing you want to do is fall out with colleagues - the people you share office space with - so it pays to know how to be professional at work and a bit about office etiquette. You spend a good proportion of your waking hours alongside these people, so they need to be harmonious. If you struggle to establish healthy relationships at work, this can have serious implications for your quality of life and also your career development.

At some point, almost inevitably, you will get stuck in a team with someone you can't see eye to eye with. If you're particularly unlucky, there might be a few individuals you struggle to work alongside - whether because of their behaviour, attitude or their office etiquette. In this scenario, the chances are your other colleagues and managers feel the same way about the troublesome employees. Unless, of course, the cause of the problem is actually you.

We're not always the best at spotting our own failings, or appreciating when we've crossed the line. If you find it difficult to get on with people at work and struggle to understand basic office etiquette, are you completely sure this isn't a problem of your own making? Unless you respect people, accept their different personalities and adhere to office etiquette, you will rub people up the wrong way. It's all too easy to be labelled the office irritant, and somewhat more difficult to lose the reputation.

Just in case you're unsure of where the boundaries lie, we've compiled this guide on how to be professional. Following these office etiquette tips should help you remain on good terms with your fellow employees (and ensure regular cups of tea throughout the working day):

Avoid idle gossip

There's nothing wrong with a bit of chit-chat with your colleagues, but always be respectful to other people you work with. They don't want their private matters to be discussed by colleagues who barely know them, particularly when all the facts have been jumbled up. Make sure you think before you speak!

Keep your head down

If you spend the whole time sucking up to management and promoting your own wonderful achievements, you'll quickly alienate the rest of the office. Your superiors probably won't be very impressed either. Employees who work hard and get on with their jobs will always be noticed - you don't need to shout from the rooftops.

Use your own mug

Some people get very protective about their mug - that's their prerogative. Use their favourite cup at your peril - it's much better to bring your own or stick to the communal supplies. It just isn't worth getting blacklisted over.

Eat your own lunch

If someone has gone to the trouble of making their own sandwiches , and putting them in a labelled bag, then don't go into the fridge and claim them for yourself. This is theft, plain and simple..

Take your mobile elsewhere

There's no excuse to review the weekend with your friends, or plan your evening, on your mobile phone in the office even if you are addicted to technology. If you want to make or receive social calls, wait until your break or lunch hour and take your phone outside. There's other people trying to work.

Don't be a cake-hog

Every now and then, one of your colleagues may bring a cake into the office as a sweet treat for the team. Don't go back for seconds until everyone has had a slice. And make sure you reciprocate in the future by doing your own spot of baking!

Turn up on time

If work starts at 9am and you keep trundling in at 9:15am, it's clear you need to work on your time management. Everyone likes a lie-in, but the rest of us are able to wait until Saturday and it isn't going to make you very popular when everyone is waiting for you.

Keep the moaning to a minimum

Stop moaning about everything - you're a broken record. We know you hate the management/weather/company/metric system, but we've heard it all before… most recently five minutes ago.

Give them a political lecture

Whether it’s the Scottish referendum or the latest government foreign policy, discussing current affairs is one thing, but force-feeding your views and ideology is very much another. Even more, you may risk offending your colleagues on a personal level.

If you're constantly at odds with the other people and have no office etiquette, the negative atmosphere may impact on everyone's performance, productivity and job satisfaction. Also, if management see you as being a disruptive influence at work, it has the potential to affect your career prospects. Knowing how to be professional at work will help you develop your career, let's face it, who wants to hire or promote a trouble-maker?