The latest trends in open-concept workplace environments have brought on new needs for break room etiquette. Today’s offices are increasingly more collaborative, with more team spaces and fewer private offices.

This article will address break room etiquette with some friendly reminders and new guidelines that will keep your break room a place where employees can relax, collaborate, and get a quick pick-me-up that will carry them through the day.

Timeless Break Room Etiquette

While modern offices bring new rules to the break room, some basic etiquette rules are timeless.

breakroom etiquette - no stinky foodsLeave Stinky Foods At Home

One of the best aspects of our olfactory senses is that we all smell things differently. That means that while you may love the smell of sauerkraut or fish, not everyone in the office will feel the same. Timeless break room etiquette dictates that fragrant foods remain at home or in a restaurant.

Clean Up After Yourself

Remember that expression, ‘your mom doesn’t work here – clean up after yourself?’ This basic rule of break room etiquette means that you should never leave messes for someone else to clean up.

If you spill your coffee, grab a paper towel and clean it up. When you eat lunch at the table, wipe up your crumbs, drips, and dribbles when done. And if you are using dishes, clean them or place them in the dishwasher. A sink full of dirty dishes is not only unappealing but also unprofessional.

Even in situations where your mom does, in fact, ‘work here,’ in the office environment, she shouldn’t be cleaning up after you. Take it from us – Colorado Pure is family-owned and operated, but we all clean up after ourselves in the office!

Fridge Manners

Most modern offices have communal refrigerators where employees can store their personal food items, and businesses can stock coffee creamer, sodas, and other goods for office consumption.

If you are utilizing the communal fridge, mind your manners with these tips:

  • Label your food.
  • Don’t take someone else’s stuff.
  • Take uneaten food home at the end of each week.
  • Don’t hog shelf space.
  • Don’t place empty bottles or containers back in the fridge.

The last tip is especially true for items provided by the employer, such as creamer. If you use the last of an item, let the individual who purchases for your company know.

New Break Room Etiquette For A Modern Workspace

Whether you are new to an office environment or are returning to the office after working at home during COVID-19, there are a few new rules for the modern office break room.

Respect Personal Space

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many view personal space. Remember that you are not the only person using the break room and that some individuals may choose to continue to socially distancing themselves.

Additionally, don’t hoard all the snacks, and don’t assume you own the table, the counter space, the fridge – you get the point. The break room is there for the entire office.

Show Sensitivity To Co-Workers With Food Allergies

Modern break room etiquette involves awareness of food allergies and dietary restrictions of co-workers. Some individuals may be avoiding certain foods because of personal preference, but a growing number of people have serious or life-threatening allergies to gluten, nuts, and other food staples. How can you be considerate of their needs? In three ways.

First, clean up after yourself, as mentioned above. Do not assume your gluten-sensitive friends will be okay with crumbs from your bagel on the counter where they will be fixing their lunch.

Second, be mindful of what you bring into the office for personal use or to share. For instance, your co-workers with potentially fatal nut allergies will likely appreciate your consideration in not eating your PBJ in the break room while they eat lunch. And if you are bringing in snacks for the entire office, be mindful of the needs of the entire office. Have options for gluten-free, vegetarian, and nut-free individuals.

Third, consider designating specific areas for those with food allergies. Doing so is the best way to ensure no cross-contamination could result in sick co-workers.

Engage With Your Co-Workers

One of the best parts of a coffee break is chatting with your friends in the office. In fact, the break room may be the space in your office where you can communicate freely with everyone in the office, from the janitor to the CEO.

Be personable, be open, and take a chance. If someone doesn’t respond to you as quickly as you would like, be respectful but don’t give up. Promoting having a friend at work increases employee retention and satisfaction.

One related aspect of break room etiquette is to be mindful of noise levels. Modern break rooms are often informal meeting spots. If this is the case while you are there, perhaps have the loud conversation about your weekend elsewhere.

Related: 3 Types of Meetings You Can Have in The Break Room

Break Room Etiquette for Business Owners

So far, we have discussed ways all of us can improve our break room etiquette, but this next section is specifically for business owners. There are two things you can do that will ensure your break room is a useful and enjoyable place for your employees.

Stock Your Break Room With Healthy Snacks

The modern workforce is more health-conscious than previous generations, and the demand for healthy food in the workplace has grown. If you are looking for suggestions of what to keep on-hand, read our article, Eight Healthy, Delicious Break Room Snacks Your Company Needs.

Provide A Personal Coffee And Tea Experience

Coffee and tea have become essential parts of the modern workplace. Many employees rely on coffee to help them get through their day, and many businesses have dedicated office coffee stations or even full cafes to meet this need.

Employees want more than the traditional midwest staple of Folgers coffee in a shared pot. They want a cup of coffee brewed on the spot, with their specific preferences in mind. Coffee suppliers have listened to the demand, and now coffee machines provide the variety and customization options required for the modern break room.


Now that you know what modern break room etiquette looks like, you can ensure your habits in this shared space don’t disrupt your co-workers. Instead, you can use the break room to build camaraderie with your fellow employees and make working together more enjoyable.

Wise business owners hire office coffee delivery services like Colorado Pure to keep their break rooms stocked and their employees happy. To learn more about how Colorado Pure can supply your Colorado business with the best coffee, tea, and other break room solutions, contact us for a free consultation and custom quote.