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Proper etiquette in any situation is mostly common sense. In the workplace, it is being thoughtful and having respect for your colleagues. Moving from 'me' space to 'we' space encourages collaboration. Consideration for others is key to creating a more positive office atmosphere.

Striking the right balance between being accessible to your colleagues and staff and setting boundaries so you can concentrate on your work is key. Essentially, treat others as you would want to be treated. By following these guidelines, you can work more comfortably, enjoy open communication, and enhance team productivity.


  • Use headphones to listen to the radio, music and audio clips on your computer. Headphones are great for keeping your noise in and other people's noise out.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs are an option if you are easily distracted by ambient noise.
  • Keep computer volumes low; turn off screensaver sound effects.
  • Hold even two-person meetings in a meeting room or quiet room, rather than at your desk.
  • Move impromptu meetings, small gatherings and casual conversations to a meeting room, the cafeteria, a hallway or some other area away from workstations.
  • If you want to speak to someone, go to their desk.


  • Be attentive to people who wish not to be disturbed; wearing earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones could be an indication that you do not want any interruptions.
  • Treat people as though they have enclosed offices. Wait to be invited into someone else's personal space.
  • Instead of staying around a person's desk waiting for him or her to finish a phone call, conversation or meeting; send a quick email, leave a note asking the person to come and see you, or just come back later.
  • Read someone's computer screen only if you are asked to do so.
  • Resist the temptation to answer questions or comment on conversations you overhear.
  • Use a sign, or an agreed upon signal, to let people know when you do not wish to be disturbed, as well as when you expect to be available.


  • Keep ring tones low and choose the least annoying options.
  • Set cell phones to the “vibrate” function.
  • Do not use the speaker function on your phone.
  • Make conference calls from a meeting or quiet room.
  • Speak as softly as possible.
  • Forward your calls, set your voicemail to pick up immediately, or turn your ringer off when you are working away from your desk.
  • Make personal, sensitive, noisy or lengthy calls from a meeting room, quiet room or some other enclosed or isolated location


  • Be courteous of people with allergies.
  • Avoid using scented products (perfumes, hand cream, etc).
  • Avoid eating pungent foods at your workstation or work point, move to the cafeteria or kitchen.
  • Store soiled gym clothes in a sealed bag and keep in your personal locker.
  • Keep boots, shoes, and all other footwear in your personal locker.
  • Respect segregations (smoke-free) in coat closets where applicable.
Note: Many scented products can seriously affect employees with environmental sensitivities. Products such as perfumes, air fresheners, aftershave lotions, tobacco, cleaning products can trigger reactions.

Additional external resources:


  • Clean desk policy applies to all employees in the workspace.
  • Cleaning wipes are supplied. Please clean your work surface at the end of use.
  • Keep passageways clear. It's tidy and safe.
  • Pick up documents sent to printers in a timely fashion.
  • The locker area needs to be free of all personal items. Items such as shoes or jacket need to be inside your locker at all times.
  • Leave meeting rooms and common areas tidy.
  • Keep files, boxes and equipment in appropriate storage areas.
  • Lower your workstation or work point surface down to the sitting position when not in use.

Green practices

  • Use the recycle/waste station provided for recyclables and other waste.
  • Turn off the lights as you leave a meeting room.
  • Before printing a paper document, consider whether you can use the smart board or laptop/tablet instead.
  • Practice paperless meetings.

Still have questions? Visit the GCworkplace: A modern workplace for the new public service site or send us an email at RPEM National Accommodations (DFO).