Office Break Room Etiquette

office break room etiquette

You all know the person I’m talking about. Of course, it isn’t you. They leave a mess when they’re done, talk really loud, and eat your food from the refrigerator. The office break room is a place for camaraderie among colleagues. Not a place to assume someone else will clean up after you. Remember what you mom told you, “Be nice, courteous, pickup after yourself, and don’t leave a mess!” You don’t want to be that person everyone talks about. Make yourself even more popular around the office by mastering the basics of office break room etiquette.


Clean Up:

  • Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave anything behind when you leave. There is no bus person going to come clean up after you. Wipe your table after eating. Throw away all your garbage. Wash your plates and food containers and avoid leaving dishes soaking in the sink for indefinite periods.
  • Clean up after others occasionally. People are more likely to clean up if the room is kept neat at all times. If you sometimes wipe off a dirty counter or wash a sink full of coffee cups, your colleagues may return the favor when you need it.
  • Take turns with the major chores. Sometimes the refrigerator needs a thorough cleaning. You know, when green things are growing in there that you shouldn’t consume. Take a turn or to help when you see someone undertaking a big job.


  • Replace anything you use up. A big one, if you take the last cup of coffee, make a new pot. When the condiment dispensers get low, fill them up. That includes the salt and pepper shakers.
  • Take the whole piece. Even though you are careful not to touch the other half, most people avoid the “other half”, because they don’t know you were careful. Take the whole donut or cookie, even if you aren’t planning on eating all of it.
  • Avoid strong odors. Your colleagues may not share your passion for robust cheeses or fish. Mild aromas are safer in the workplace. If you accidentally burn something in the microwave, wiping it down with vinegar and lemon will get rid of most smells.
  • Don’t eat other people’s food. Containers can look alike. Be sure and label yours to avoid mistakes. And don’t assume that just because there is sour cream in the fridge that you can use it. It more than likely belongs to someone else.


  • Put off non-urgent business: Let your co-workers enjoy their lunch. Unless it’s an emergency, wait until they’re back at their desks to talk about ordering supplies or rescheduling a meeting.
  • Keep your conversation G-rated. Everyone should feel comfortable in the employee lounge. Avoid topics that could be controversial or offensive. There may be individuals at work who share or maybe don’t share your political views or irreverent sense of humor. Save your analysis and jokes for happy hour with them alone.
  • Talk softly. When one person raises his or her voice, everyone tends to talk louder to compensate. Remember what your mom told you, “Use your indoor voice!” The people who work next to the break room will be especially grateful.
  • Use your cell phone discreetly. Similar guidelines apply for cell phone conversation. Avoid any subjects that your co-workers would be uncomfortable hearing. If you get a bad connection, step outside or call back rather than being that person, “Can you hear me now?”.

Be the person that your mom would be proud of when it comes to manners. Use these simple, yet effective ways of keeping the office break room clean for everyone.