The office environment is not only a productive place to be, but it can also be an enjoyable one as well. It’s a place where people can form lasting relationships with those who they work with, and as you tend to spend more time with colleagues than close friends, it’s important to make sure you keep grievances to a minimum.
With that in mind it brings us to talking about communal spaces in offices, the most obvious of which is the office kitchen. Easily the most interesting area of an office, the kitchen forces people to put their social skills to the test, and it’s where passive aggressive post-it notes speak of long-contested arguments regarding unfair fridge space and absent low-fat yogurt.
Asides from being a potential cause of conflict, the kitchen can be a hotbed for food hygiene and health and safety problems. So it’s important to keep the office kitchen clean and clear. With that in mind, here are a few top tips for keeping the office kitchen tidy.
Safety first with some safety labelling
At home, the kitchen is the number one place for domestic accidents, and as such requires extra vigilance when it comes to safety, and this is absolutely no different at the office. To make sure that risks are reduced as much as possible, signs and labels highlighting potential dangers are a must.
Signs drawing attention to things such as hot water and electrical appliances need to be clear and bold, and information about the whereabouts of the nearest first aid kit and who the appointed first aiders are is also needed.
Be clutter free
People are often in a hurry in their break time, and as such, they are less likely to clear up properly behind them. But a clear and clutter free kitchen helps others with food safety and reduces the risk of accidents.
Keeping the kitchen counters clutter-free is not only cleaner and safer, but it is also much more polite.
It’s a good thing to encourage others to clean as they go, meaning everything used gets washed and out away immediately. You could even suggest that anything that gets emptied such as the coffee pot or paper towel dispenser gets refilled straight away as well.
Food safety and labelling
Keeping workspaces and storage areas clutter free also helps when it comes to proper food hygiene practices. Sinks filled with dirty dishes, and fridges and cupboards full of out of date food are all breeding grounds for bacteria and dirt. And as each day passes without it being resolved, the higher the risk is for some nasty germ and bacteria outbreaks.
In some cases, people bring items for lunch into work and leave them in the refrigerator or cupboards, only to forget about them, which then sit for weeks (or even months) without being thrown away. By using brightly coloured labels it’s possible to gently remind others to be considerate when using communal storage.
As hinted at previously, one of the oldest work-related clichés is the on-going conflict between people regarding food. To avoid such conflict, you could maybe have some labels on hand near the fridge to let others what is strictly out of bounds – or even what people are more than happy to share with others.
Set a policy and stick to it
If etiquette becomes a problem, the main point to consider is controlled and respectful communication. A clear written policy lets everybody know what’s expected, what that rules are that have been set in place, as well as what are the reasons for these rules. This set of expectations could even be included within the employee handbook, or brought up as part of a staff meeting.
Signs posted in the break room, in hallways, or on company bulletin boards can be helpful reminders to everyone about the kitchen rules. Once a standard set of rules for cleanliness is put in place, it should help keep things running smoothly and help to ensure that the eating areas are sanitary for everyone to use.
A good idea is to implement a rolling rota for who will be responsible for the kitchen, this is a good way to ensure that everyone does their part, and reduces frustration between co-workers. By appointing one person at a time, everyone will see just how annoying it is when others don’t do their bit, and may help certain people be a bit more considerate.
It’s also good to lead by example and use some initiative. Pitch in if you see others who need help with cleaning, and offer to do things like empty the bins or clean up the coffee machine. The office kitchen is where individual responsibility is the absolute key to a calm and friendly work environment.