5 "Polite" Things You Do in Office Kitchens & Break Rooms That Are Actually Rude

Follow these tips to keep your co-workers happy and your break room clean.

Office kitchens and break rooms are an essential part of any workspace. Whether your office's kitchen is a place for chats over coffee or strictly a place to keep your lunch refrigerated, a certain amount of etiquette is expected. Everyone plays a part in keeping these shared spaces clean, inviting and functional, but some of the "polite" things you do in your office kitchen may actually be rude. Here are five things to keep in mind, so you can be a considerate co-worker.

1. You wash your dishes but skip cleaning out the sink drain

Everyone appreciates a clean kitchen, and cleaning up after yourself is a great practice. Whether you wipe the counters clean with disinfectant or wash some dishes in the sink, you're saving everyone else a headache. However, you might be missing a crucial step: cleaning the sink drain.

Sink drains are a trap for food scraps, crumbs and other residue. When your co-workers go to use the sink after you, they don't want to see a dirty drain. So instead of cleaning up and abandoning the drain, run some water through it, empty the strainer basket if necessary, and make sure it looks clean for the next person.

2. You leave out food to share but don't consider spoilage

Co-workers are used to sharing things like coffee creamer and sugar, certain snacks and treats brought in for special occasions. While it may seem like common courtesy to leave things out on the countertop for easy access, think twice before you leave food and drinks out to share. Although it is thoughtful to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to enjoy something, you could be inadvertently spoiling food. Coffee creamers left out could lead to upset stomachs, while pastries, bagels or treats left unpackaged could get stale and dry throughout the day.

Instead of leaving out food and drinks for your co-workers to find, wrap up the goodies and leave notes on the door, drop an announcement in your team's communication channel or remind everyone as they come into the office. After a few hours, go and clean up the food or drinks so another team member does not have to. This way, no food is wasted and your team can enjoy delicious treats (without the risk of foodborne illness!)

3. You bring in treats to share but don't consider those with food allergies

Treats like cupcakes, pastries and other baked goods are a great way to brighten the mood in an office space. From birthdays to company anniversaries to your co-worker's achievements, celebratory treats make the workday a bit more enjoyable. When ordering treats for your team, you could be overlooking certain co-workers' dietary restrictions or allergies. Rather than accidentally excluding someone from joining the celebrations, it could be good practice to have a list of each employee's dietary restrictions. When someone new joins the team, they can self-report what dietary guidelines they follow and include any specific instructions for food orders.

Then, next time there is cause for celebration, consult the document and make sure there is something for everyone. Going out of your way to order a separate treat for a co-worker will make them feel included and supported in the workspace.

a photo of a man in an office kitchen looking in the refrigerator with his coworkers working behind him
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4. You empty the coffee machine but don't assemble it properly for the next person

It seems like every office has a different coffee maker, and it goes without saying that not all coffee makers are created equally. Cleaning the coffee maker is sure to be greatly appreciated, so keep up the good work and keep cleaning. But the next time you go to dump the grounds out or wipe down the warming plate, keep in mind how your office's coffee machine works.

Putting the coffee machine back together is half the battle. Some machines are single-serving, so keep in mind that they may need water refills less regularly than larger machines. Take the time to get to know the office coffee machine. Whether it's a Keurig, a Nespresso or an industrial brewer, there are ways to make it easy for the next person brewing a cup of coffee.

5. You clean out the fridge but don't check in with others before tossing stuff

When your office's shared refrigerator gets packed with too many lunchboxes, leftovers and smelly containers you suspect to be expired, your first instinct might be to do a refrigerator purge. While you may think you're opening up more space for your co-workers' food and throwing out expired food, your clean out may be ruder than you think. Throwing out other people's food and containers is probably not in your job description, and there's no surefire way to know trash from treasure. Instead of assuming certain foods are expired and taking up refrigerator space, create a better plan of action for the whole office. Each week, an office space could have a "refrigerator audit" reminder sent out so each co-worker knows it's time to toss that takeout salad they forgot about. This way, one person isn't left to do all the work alone.

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