Eating smelly foods is the most annoying thing you can do in the office, according to new research1 conducted by business telecommunications provider, 4Com. With insight gathered from 2000 office workers across the nation, the study aimed to discover which habits most get under people’s skin in the work environment.

According to respondents, the top five behaviours that office workers find most irritating are:

  • Colleagues eating smelly food in the office e.g. egg and fish (39%)
  • Colleagues eating someone else’s food (28%)
  • Colleagues eating loudly (27%)
  • Colleagues speaking too loud (27%)
  • Colleagues whistling/singing (24%)

When it comes to the habits workers admit to having themselves, notably, a third (33%) say they have no irritating habits at all, which is probably news to their colleagues! On the other hand, one in seven (15%) are aware they speak loudly, and 13% know they have a tendency to sing while they work.

The research also looked at the way people react to workplace irritations. Over a third (37%) of workers say they’ll tell the culprit face-to-face that their habits are irritating, while one in seven (15%) would rather drop an email to express their annoyance, and one in nine (11%) will just leave a passive-aggressive note. But, proving that British politeness is going nowhere, over a third (38%) will just ignore the problem altogether.

Interestingly, men are more likely than women to tell a colleague face-to-face that their behaviour is annoying (42% vs 34%). Yet men are also more likely to gossip to a co-worker about it, hoping that the colleague will pass on the message (13% vs 10%).

Commenting on the research, Mark Pearcy, Head of Marketing at 4Com, says: “If you work full time, you probably spend more time with your colleagues than anyone else, so it’s no surprise that certain habits can start to rub you up the wrong way!

“In those situations, we’d recommend letting the person know what’s bothering you in a clear, friendly and polite way, as well as being as patient as possible. After all, who knows, there are probably some things you do that make your colleagues grit their teeth!”

Have you ever come across, or even left, a passive-aggressive sign aimed at co-workers? If so, why not take part in 4Com’s competition to win a £50 Amazon voucher? To take part, head to https://www.4com.co.uk/blog/business-advice/office-pet-peeves/