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Office Break Room Etiquette Guide

If you have ever worked in an office, you probably became familiar with the break room. This is where breaks are taken, packed lunches are kept, donuts for special occasions are shared and coffee utensils are available. It is not unusual to find a refrigerator, microwave, sink and beverage dispensers, among other meal-prep items. This also makes it very convenient to enjoy lunches.

There are all types of people who share your office and break room space. Some are very conscientious, while others act like a maid is going to clean up after them. While some office buildings have a cleaning service that has general cleaning duties in the break room, they usually pertain to basic cleanup, such as disinfecting tabletops, vacuuming or mopping floors and scrubbing out the sink. Most employers feel that individual cleanup should be the responsibility of employees. Regardless of what you expect the lunchroom etiquette to be, here are the most common and up-to-date break room etiquette rules that you should be following.

  1. Respect the office refrigerator rules. Sharing this space is a common complaint in many office kitchens. Some employees take up far more space than they should. It almost appears as if they have brought a whole week's supply of food. Keep your food containers and drink bottles within reason. Do not leave 2-liter bottles of soda or filled plastic sacks that take up half a shelf.
  1. Leave strong-smelling foods at home. Warmed-up fish or cabbage can leave not-so-pleasant odors in the lunchroom long after you have returned to your work station. If you have no other option, wash the container after eating and remove it to your car so the odor will dissipate.
  1. Clean up your mess. No one wants to sit down to a table that has crumbs or drops of ketchup left over from the last diner. Take a few seconds to wipe off your area. This is only good lunchroom etiquette.
  1. Adhere to a break room cleanliness memo. If you have received a memo from upper management regarding office break room rules, do not assume that this reminder is making reference to someone else. Pay attention to the cleanliness of the lunchroom, and pitch in to wash dishes, remove garbage or wipe out the microwave.
  1. Label your items. Marking your items removes the possibility of a coworker grabbing your container by mistake. Many plastic lunch trays look similar in design and color. This can lead to unfounded accusations of food theft and an uneasiness among coworkers.
  1. Wipe up splattered food from the microwave and stove. It only takes a second to cover your food before heating. If you forget, the results could leave food debris stuck to surfaces. Practice good break room etiquette and wipe down the area before the next person needs to prepare his or her food.
  1. Wash your dishes. Do not let the sink pile up with soiled dishes. Clean your dinnerware and any other dishes that may have been left in the sink. Cleaning only your dishes is silly when there are only a few extra cups and plates to wash.
  1. Refill containers and brew fresh coffee. It can be very annoying to go to get a cup of coffee and find an empty pot. The same applies to any condiment containers that are set out on tables or counters. If you see that supplies are running low, contact the person in charge of restocking.
  1. Keep flat surfaces sanitary. Check the kitchen cabinets for sprays or wipes that are intended for use in removing bacteria and germs. Dried food can create an unsanitary place to dine.
  1. Use the break room as intended. A break room or lunchroom is a place for relaxing for a few minutes or eating your lunch. Try to avoid discussing work or making phone calls that can be disruptive to others. This courtesy will be appreciated by all.

Office break room rules should not have to be posted. However, sometimes workers need a subtle reminder of how this space is provided for their comfort. Help to keep this area clean, even if it means going a bit out of your way.