Monday, January 28, 2013

Behavior at the Table

Some of us work in the open, at a large kitchen table. It’s not really a kitchen table, but it feels like one. In general we do not eat off each other’s plates and we try to avoid the “boarding house reach.” Nevertheless, there are some rules, unwritten, that we should observe. 

First, your stuff should remain in arms’ reach. I don’t know how pens and tablets and files move horizontally away from you, but they do.

Boundaries may not be defined by visual or spatial clues, but they do exist, as your neighbors will remind you. Second, phone voice: being on a conference call when you add a word or two at reasonable intervals is one thing, leading a global call is another. We all have cell phones, and we all have schedules for upcoming calls. So, finding another place to use a speaker phone is a definite must. 

Lastly, there is food. I feel uncomfortable eating alone in a restaurant, so I have no trouble abstaining from lunch at the big table when no one else is eating. For those who do lunch at the big table, the presence of monitors or other screens helps take the edge off—at least you aren’t facing your colleague as you nosh on a hot pastrami. And remember that those screens aren’t very effective on smells. Not everyone loves the aroma of curry or a cheeseburger, and both can pose an unwelcome distraction to a hungry colleague trying to wrap something up before she goes to lunch. Rather than stewing, the team can affect the behavior with some simple signals. A friendly "ahem," a warm wave of the hands, or an icy glance generally creates the results. I’ll move or stop whatever I’m doing, and maybe even remember next time.

-Bryant Rice


About the Author:
Bryant Rice, Vice President of Strategic Accounts, is our Workplace Warrior. He deals out strategy, perspective, and opinions. Bryant brings over 30 years of experience to SideMark as an architect, planner, workplace strategist, facilities manager and furniture manufacturer. Bryant holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology as well as a MArch and MBA in Architecture and Business Administration from the University of Illinois. To contact Bryant, email him at

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