3 Ways to Manage Office Breakroom Tensions

“I think Vanessa’s been eating my lunch again.”

“Ugh…whose sandwich is this!!?? It’s been in here for over a month!”

“Stop leaving your dirty dishes in the sink, people!”

Office Breakroom

Every office has the same office breakroom problems. Believe it or not, it is quite unlikely these individuals are deliberately trying to annoy you. Most of the time, they probably don’t even realize their actions are negatively affecting others and forget there is no “office mom” available to clean up their messes.

While changing these individuals’ behavior is the ideal long-term solution, it’s easier said than done. But here are 3 office breakroom management tips to ensure you’re not the office breakroom slob they’re all talking about.

1) Don’t ever leave your dirty dishes in the sink – even to “soak.”

Leaving your dishes in the sink ensures they’re in the way for others, and you might even forget about them altogether. So, clean your dishes right away. Wipe down the sink. Wipe down the counter. Leave the breakroom better than you found it.

Cleaning the sink after every use may seem like overkill, but according to microbiologist Kelly Reynolds, kitchen sinks are often dirtier than the bathroom. There are hundreds of thousands of bacteria covering the drain, so sanitizing and cleaning out the sink is a must! Additionally, the Reader’s Digest reported that dish sponges harbor pathogens like E. Coli and Salmonella, so you’ll want to toss them in the dishwasher or microwave them briefly (while still damp) to kill any contaminants.

Because the kitchen sink is so dirty, it’s also important to have a point-of-use water system so employees don’t have to risk getting sick by putting their water bottles on dirty faucets.

2) Don’t leave any food in the fridge for more than one day.

Your office fridge isn’t big enough for you to keep your frozen microwavable meals in it just in case you forget your lunch one day. If you bring in your lunch and end up going out instead, take your lunch home that night – that’s exactly how people start forgetting they’ve left things in the office fridge.

If food needs to be in the fridge for more than a day, a sharpie and masking tape should be left in a kitchen drawer so people can easily label the food item as theirs and the date that it was put in the fridge. Keep in mind that fruits and veggies like bananas, broccoli, berries, and green beans spoil quickly —so these should definitely not be allowed to stay in the fridge for more than a day.

Since people will occasionally still leave (or forget) items in the fridge, the office receptionist or janitor should have the go-ahead to chuck everything that’s left on Friday evening—this practice will ensure that nothing is getting pushed to the back, forgotten and moldy.

3) Consider partnering with an office beverage and snack service.

By partnering with an office coffee service that offers breakroom supplies, you can minimize the need for employees to bring their own snacks altogether. Coffee, tea, cocoa and snacks on-demand mean a less crowded fridge and a happier office.

A shared kitchen is problematic for roommates, office workers, and families alike. You’re not alone. Just do your part to promote a peaceful office breakroom and let your good manners catch on.