New Study: How Office Behaviors Impact Workplace Environment

Top pet peeves identified impact work morale and environment

The majority of American workers (77 percent) think that their co-workers could behave better in the workplace and that it is impacting productivity and morale, according to a new Kelton Global study on behalf of National Business Furniture (NBF).

The study, which surveyed adults ages 18+ who are employed full or part time, examines how many workplace do’s and don’ts are not always followed and as a result, how this affects workers’ attitudes, their connectivity with colleagues and their work environment. In fact, 58 percent surveyed say that improving employee conduct would improve their attitude and make them want to spend more time in the workplace.

The study found that the following are top workplace pet peeves:

  1. Punctuality: Three out of four respondents say that consistently being late to work or meetings tops the list of workplace annoyances.
  2. Food Faux Pas: Leaving dirty dishes in a common area is offensive to 77 percent surveyed.
    • More than half (52 percent) say that their co-workers shouldn’t cook potent (like fish or spicy foods) in the microwave.
    • Thirty percent say their officemates shouldn’t eat snacks or meals at a shared workstation. 
  3. Noisy Surroundings: Playing music that’s too loud is unacceptable to 77 percent surveyed; 57 percent believe that having smartphone ringers on for calls, notifications or alerts is annoying and 50 percent say that taking private calls in a shared workstation is objectionable.
  4. Taboo Topics: Conversation topics like religion, politics or sexuality should be off-limits at work say 59 percent of respondents. The survey showed 70 percent of American workers believe their co-workers should avoid displaying ‘not suitable for work’ photos.

 Too Close for Comfort?

These annoying habits are causing some anxiety for workers. Forty-five percent said that they don’t feel comfortable and accepted in their workplace and 25 percent avoid communal work spaces so their colleagues’ behaviors won’t affect them. One out of five (16 percent) say that they work remotely as much as possible to avoid their co-workers’ misconduct.

Co-worker Coping Strategies

According to the study, workers are finding ways to cope with challenging behaviors:

  • Younger workers (31 percent) are more likely than boomers (18 percent) to deal with colleagues’ behavior by reminding them of the rules.
  • Men are more likely than women to directly ask colleagues to change poor workplace behaviors (27 percent versus 17 percent).
  • Millennials are three times as likely (42 percent) as boomers (13 percent) to wear headphones or earbuds at work to reduce noise levels.
  • Twenty-eight percent surveyed seek out private areas to avoid dealing with bad behaviors.

Workplace Refresh

According to the study, making simple design changes to the office can also positively impact morale and behavior. Twenty-six percent of respondents say that if their workplace was upgraded with fresh paint and some new furniture, attitudes would improve.

“Considering the average person spends one-third of their life at work, it’s important to create an environment that both encourages positive interactions and provides privacy,” said Dean Stier, chief marketing officer for NBF.


The National Business Furniture Workplace Do’s and Don’ts Study was conducted among 1,004 Americans ages 18+ who are employed full or part time using an email invitation and online survey conducted by Kelton Global. In this particular survey, the margin of error was +/- 3.1 percent. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. population. To download the full study, go to the Workplace Do’s and Don’ts Study.


With the mission to improve every workplace, National Business Furniture offers more than one thousand products that can ship today, exclusive products from its NBF Signature Series line, expert service, a dedicated outside sales force and an unbeatable lifetime guarantee. To request a free catalog or to browse the complete selection of office furniture, such as desks, chairs, file cabinets, bookcases and reception furniture, visit


Kelton Global is a leading global insights firm serving as partner to more than 100 of the Fortune 500 companies. Kelton Global partners with thousands of smaller companies and organizations as well. For more information about Kelton Global, visit