The average worker spends 34 hours and 26 minutes at work each week.

Being in one place with the same people for such a long period of time makes people’s annoying habits all the more evident. It doesn’t matter how much you think you like them, there will always be things that get on your nerves while you’re trying to stay focused at work.

This is supported by recent research conducted by printing company instantprint, which reveals that 96% of people get annoyed with their colleagues at work, with over half saying they find themselves irritated on a regular basis.

The research offers some insights into the most common annoyances in UK offices and how you might go about overcoming these.

Irritating habits and distractions can have a negative impact on employees, in fact, 1 in 3 respondents said they felt workplace annoyances had affected their productivity. This can impact on the company so it’s important for employees to effectively manage these bad habits. Unfortunately, you can’t put a stop to them, but there are plenty of ways to overcome them to avoid hindering your business.

Most Annoying Office Habits

The research included 800 UK office workers, and when asked to rank annoying office habits, there were some clear winners.  

Poor personal hygiene:

Yep, think we can all agree that a bad smell can be more than enough to put you off your work, never mind your lunch.

Someone eating smelly foods at their desk:

Continuing a similar theme, people don’t look kindly on those who tuck into a smelly lunch without any regard for those around them.

Regular smoking breaks:

Non-smokers can often find themselves working while other colleagues go out for regular smoking breaks.

Whistling:

There aren’t many things more distracting than someone whistling while you’re trying to concentrate.

People being late:

Whether it’s showing up late to work, meetings, or anything else. Waiting around for people can be very frustrating.

It’s not just habits that can get under people’s skin either, overused phrases are more than capable of making us want to pull our hair out while at work.

Here are the top ones highlighted by instantprint’s research:

  1. “Regards”, as opposed to ‘kind regards’ in a passive aggressive email
  2. “It’s on my radar”
  3. “Ducks in a row”
  4. “Move the goalpost”
  5. “Hit the ground running”

Cliché phrases are just something you need to try and dodge when working in an office environment, because they’re everywhere. If you’re a culprit, maybe you should consider some less irritating alternatives.

The survey also allowed UK workers to reveal some of their own pet peeves they have to suffer through during a working day. They gave the following responses:

“My colleague flirts with the customers”

“Always whistling an inane tune, such as ‘bippity, boppity boo’”

“Heating smelly fish in the microwave!”

“They called me Christine. My name is Kim.”

“Ate half my chocolate bar, and then barked when I was on a business call”

“Leaving their smelly socks on the floor”

“My boss rushed a meeting so he could get back to the golf course”

The Importance of Managing Bad Habits

As mentioned before, irritating habits can have negative impacts on the morale and productivity of your employees, which as a result, staggers or interrupts business output.

According to Workplace Insight, a quarter of the UK workforce already admit to being unproductive for up to two hours a day, this accounts for 40 million working hours every week.

Businesses can’t afford for this to be any higher, and with 30% of respondents claiming annoying colleagues reduce their productivity, managing these annoying habits should be taken seriously by employers.

As an employer, there are things you can do to manage these habits, and it’s important you take it upon yourself to do so, as according to instantprint’s survey, the majority of people suffer these annoyances in silence.

As many as 40% said they wouldn’t say anything if someone was being annoying, and of the 60% who would, it doesn’t mean the problem is always effectively being solved.

As well as leading to a fall in productivity, 29% claim annoying colleagues make the day feel long, and 23% said they feel stressed out because of them. Even more worrying for employers, is that nearly one-third of respondents said they are likely to leave their job because of annoyances in the office.

Productivity, morale, and staff retention are huge areas of concern for employers, so keeping these as high as possible should be at the forefront of employer’s minds.

Overcoming Annoying Workplace Situations

Finding a way of handling colleagues’ annoyances with each other can be difficult, but before we get into that, it was also revealed that a number of employees were annoyed by the facilities at work.

  1. When the work kitchen microwave isn’t clean
  2. Flickering Office Lighting
  3. The office printer that’s broken… again
  4. Unpleasant toilets
  5. Meeting rooms being double booked
  6. A fridge that isn’t big enough for everyone’s lunch
  7. Nowhere to take a lunch break away from your desk
  8. When the air con isn’t set to your optimum temperature
  9. An untidy kitchen
  10. Limited car parking space

These were the top responses when people were asked what annoyed them about their office space, as an employer, addressing these should be fairly straight forward. Make sure the office is kept clean, fix any faults, and ensure there is enough space for employees to feel comfortable in their working environment. If it means an increase in productivity and morale, it makes a worthy investment.

Moving onto more sensitive issues between employees, Sean Kachmarski, trainer at instantprint, offered some expert knowledge on how to overcome certain annoying workplace situations highlighted by the survey.

1) Last minute cancellations

Employees grow frustrated when colleagues become unreliable and they feel they’re being let down. Introduce a policy where if you need to cancel a meeting, you should be the one to reschedule it or go and speak to someone directly. This will stop your employees from feeling let down.

2) Stealing food from the fridge

In most cases, this is a matter of trust. But making sure there is enough fridge space and leaving notes to remind employees to respect what belongs to their colleagues can make a difference.

3) Poor communication

To avoid break downs in communication annoying your employees, promote an office atmosphere where employees are free to go and speak to each other at their desks or book in rooms for a catch-up. This will have other positive effects on the office as well as working relationships will improve.

4) Untidy toilets

Toilet habits can get on employee’s nerves if they consistently find them kept in poor states. Encourage policies and provide the right equipment for employees to keep the toilets clean and use posters to remind people to consider their fellow workers.

5) Unanswered emails

Similarly, to poor communication, encourage your employees not to get annoyed by unanswered emails and try alternative methods of communication as there is probably a good explanation for why the receiver hasn’t written back. Face-to-face communication is the best, and it’s a quick way of getting things done.

6) Using a colleague’s mug

A common dispute in the communal kitchen, chances are the cause of this is there aren’t enough mugs to go around. Bring in some company branded mugs for everyone’s use to help solve this issue.

It can be easy to turn a blind eye to these workplace annoyances and leave employees to sort it out amongst themselves. But with the negative impacts this can have on your business highlighted in the study, it’s worth taking some time to ensure you have a happy and productive workforce.

Written By
Hannah Rogers is a Content Specialist with a focus on HR topics. She regularly discusses topics including workplace diversity and discrimination, company perks and more.