If you’ve ever watched “The Office” (British or American version) or the movie “Office Space,” you learn a lot about workplace politeness. From the people who leave their lunch in the refrigerator until it becomes a science experiment to the folks whose phone conversations might as well be conducted on a bullhorn, the workplace is full of epic fails in the etiquette department.
Whether we work in a cubicle farm, an office or an isolated bunker in Storage Room B, we have to interact with others. LifeBridge Health consists of a variety of work ecosystems, from conventional offices to nurses’ stations to an entire fitness center. Each environment is as unique as the folks who inhabit it; however, following the Golden Rule will keep you golden in the eyes of your co-workers.
For Levindale social workers Shmuel Cotton, LCSW-C, and Felisa Cooper, LSWA, maintaining a harmonious work space is as much about what they don’t say as what they do.
“We both try to notice body language,” says Shmuel. “I can normally tell how Felisa is feeling just by paying attention to her expression when she comes into the office.”
Shmuel and Felisa have shared an office for the past two years. In that time, they’ve established their own unwritten rules.
“We respect each others’ boundaries,” adds Felisa. “Since we often have very little privacy, we try to always be respectful of the other person.”
Since both of them regularly use the phone while working, keeping their voices low is a matter of both courtesy and necessity. Whenever possible, Shmuel or Felisa will excuse themselves from the office so the other can enjoy privacy during his or her call.
Though Lauren Lynch and her 10 colleagues in the Human Resources department at Sinai Hospital aren’t crammed into the same office, they do share a refrigerator, microwave and copier. “We’re pretty light on rules in our department,” Lauren says. “We do have one rule though,” she adds with a sly smile. “If something has been in the refrigerator for more than two weeks, it will be removed.”
Surprisingly, Lauren says that the biggest challenge for her work area isn’t a messy microwave or funky-smelling fridge. It’s the allocation of common filing cabinet space. So they developed quarterly schedules in anticipation of how much space each person will need. Still, the entire department meets about once a month to check in with each other about general office housekeeping items.
With a little creativity and a lot of common sense, maintaining a two or even 10-person office doesn’t have to be a hassle. However, as the number of employees expands, so do the challenges. LifeBridge Health & Fitness houses roughly 140 employees and more than 4,000 members.
“The atmosphere is unlike most workplaces in that we represent a true melting pot. We have a vast number of staff and members representing a spectrum of ages, creeds and ethnicities all interacting within one communal space,” acknowledges Jarred Fajerski, executive director of LifeBridge Health & Fitness .
This breadth of perspective proves the old saying true: You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Jarred says that communication and a team-oriented approach will help you scale most hurdles. His advice is worth following no matter where you clock in. It’s especially prudent in a medical setting, where patients, nurses, social workers and other staff interact in a 24/7 workplace.
“Whether we’re in our office or on the floor with patients, communication is the difference maker,” concurs Shmuel. Taking the time to check in with your co-workers, and, above all else, doing unto others as you would want done unto you will make your workplace feel like a home away from home.