If you work in an office with a break room/kitchenette, you’ve probably got stories to tell. And with a 20% growth in hybrid work models for U.S. employees since before the pandemic, it’s clear that these horror stories aren’t going anywhere.

Not everyone pays the same amount of attention to cleanliness and the consideration of others. Indeed, the workplace kitchen can become a war zone where colleagues collide. The confrontation could so easily be avoided, however, if only everyone would abide by some key rules.

Do unto others—The ten commandments of kitchen etiquette

  1. Don’t eat or drink other people’s stuff.
    Common sense, right? Apparently not for some folks. Exception: Food marked “Help yourself” is fair game.
  2. When heating any food or beverage in the microwave oven, ALWAYS cover it with a lid or a paper towel.
    And if you’ve still managed to splatter food or liquid, wipe it immediately.
  3. Keep your distance if you’re under the weather.
    Ideally you’ll have stayed home if you’re sick. But if you absolutely had to drag yourself into the office, show consideration by keeping your coughing and sneezing away from other people’s food. Try to avoid the workplace kitchen when others are using it and use a paper towel when touching the refrigerator handle, microwave buttons, sink faucet, etc. so you don’t spread germs.
  4. Never leave your dirty dishes or silverware in the sink.
    Wash them right away or rinse them well and pack them in a bag so they’re ready to go home with you for a proper cleaning.
  5. If your food is growing fuzz in the fridge, throw it away.
    It’s not going to magically disappear or grow legs and walk away on its own. The longer it stays, the fuzzier and ickier it will become. Dispose of it promptly. (Exception to this rule below)
  6. Regarding the previous rule, if fuzzy food is accompanied by an offensive odor, do not dispose of it in the lunchroom waste can take it to an outdoor dumpster.
  7. Don’t dominate the microwave (and the entire lunch hour) with frozen meals that take an eternity to nuke If you regularly bring food that takes longer than five to seven minutes to cook, you’ll be the talk of the office—and not in a good way.
  8. Don’t leave your mess on the counter for the next guy.
    As my mom would say, “Were you raised in a barn?” Seriously, clean up after yourself.
  9. Keep conversation considerate of sensitive stomachs.
    Details about bodily functions and tales of horrific accidents have no place in the workplace lunchroom or anywhere where anyone is eating. Think before you speak about anything that might make others queasy.
  10. NEVER leave a bag of popcorn unattended in the microwave.
    It will always cook faster than you expect it to. But if you really want to tee off your coworkers for an entire afternoon, forget this rule and commence in sending the pervasive stench of burnt Jiffy Pop throughout the office.

Simple, sensible, and definitely not too much to ask, I know these rules could have eliminated some tension and disenchantment in the office where I worked.

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