The most annoying work behaviors and habits

In the past few months, Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. The pandemic is affecting people’s daily lives in very different and significant ways, but the impact it has had on jobs is especially notable. People around the world have moved to fully remote work schedules for the first time while offices sit empty to avoid spreading the virus across companies.

Prior to the pandemic, we ran a survey about the things and interactions that happen around the office every day that bother people the most. While many of us are currently left missing the in-person meeting collaboration with coworkers, the casual kitchen conversations, and all of the other things that come along with day-to-day office life, we thought it would be fun to present the results to provide a lighthearted look at what you might not realize you aren’t missing while working remotely.

We surveyed 800 full-time workers about the habits and tendencies of their coworkers and everyday things that happen in the workplace that bother them most. Nearly 1 in 5 people reported feeling annoyed at work at least once per day and only 1% of respondents reported ‘never’ feeling annoyed in the workplace, so there were plenty of behaviors and annoyances to dig into.

Here’s what we uncovered.

The most bothersome virtual meeting behaviors and habits

Imagine showing the most bothersome virtual meeting behaviors and habits

First, given the switch people around the world have made to remote work, we wanted to explore the most bothersome behaviors and habits in virtual meetings. Not everyone is accustomed to video meetings, so they can be unaware that they’re committing some of these common faux pas.

According to survey results, not muting background noise is the most bothersome virtual meeting behavior of nearly 1 in 2 respondents. Eating loudly, causing disruptions due to lack of knowledge and familiarity with the meeting platform, and dominating the conversation are also common annoyances.

The most bothersome foods and kitchen behaviors in the workplace

Graph displaying the most annoying food and kitchen behaviors at work

Next, we shifted gears to the workplace and surveyed office workers about the most annoying foods people can eat in the workplace. And if you’ve ever felt self-conscious about what people might be thinking about your lunch choice when you’re reheating your leftover salmon, you’re right in having that feeling. 31% of survey respondents agreed that reheated fish is the most annoying food coworkers can eat in the office. The second most bothersome food is hard boiled eggs, followed by raw onions, tuna fish and garlicky foods.

Shared office kitchen spaces are great for conversation, but can often be a breeding ground for stacks of dirty dishes and other messes. When it comes to the most bothersome shared kitchen behaviors, taking other people’s food from the community refrigerator tops the list according to 33% of respondents.

The email, meeting and desk behaviors that bother people most

Pie charts showing the most annoying daily workplace behaviors

When it comes to work emails, 30% of respondents think sending unnecessary emails is the most bothersome email habit of their coworkers – for men especially, as this proved to be their biggest email pet peeve. Additionally, about 1 in 4 people find replying all to company-wide emails to be the most annoying email behavior, something women found to be particularly irritating.

Next, we explored the meeting behaviors and tendencies that irk people the most. We found the most bothersome thing a coworker can do during a meeting is not pay attention, doing things like text and GChat instead. About 1 in 4 people are most frustrated by coworkers talking over other people during a meeting, and nearly 1 in 5 people find initiating unnecessary meetings to be the most annoying meeting behavior.

As far as the things coworkers do at their desks, 27% of respondents said listening to music without headphones is the most annoying. While 1 in 4 people think online shopping or using social media in plain sight is the most annoying.

The most annoying types of people to work with

graphic list identifying the ten most annoying types of coworkers

We’ve all worked with someone at some point in our careers that just seemed to get under our skin. We next asked respondents what they think the most annoying type of person to work with is. Unsurprisingly, 1 in 4 people are most aggravated by a lazy coworker, or one that doesn’t pull their weight or complete their work. The next most annoying type of coworker is a gossiper, followed by a complainer.

The most trying types of characters vary slightly when you ask men and women. The types of coworkers that annoy women the most are: a lazy coworker (29%), a complainer (15%), a gossiper (13.8%), and a know-it-all (11.2%). Whereas the types of coworkers that annoy men the most are: a lazy coworker (24%), a gossiper (17%) a complainer (12.5%), and a bragger (11.8%).

The personal hygiene related habits and tendencies that bother people most

bar charts that show the most annoying personal hygiene habits at work

Some of the most unexpected results of the study came from the personal-hygiene related questions. We were particularly surprised to see how common some tendencies such as a coworker cutting their toenails at their desk are, based on how many of the survey respondents had experienced them. In fact, more than half of respondents have dealt with a coworker who didn’t cover their mouth after coughing or sneezing, nearly 1 in 4 people have worked with a coworker that openly picked their nose, and 30% of people have dealt with a coworker who is notorious for leaving the bathroom smelly.

The biggest personal hygiene-related workplace annoyance according to 1 in 4 survey respondents? Not showering regularly, something that nearly half of the survey respondents have directly experienced.

The most annoying things coworkers do in the workplace

graphic list characterizing the 10 most annoying workplace tendencies

Next, we asked respondents, regardless of category, what the most annoying coworker behavior is.

Here are the top 10 results:

  • Take credit for other people’s work
  • Talk too loudly on the phone
  • Take personal phone calls at work
  • Use speakerphone in an open office
  • Complain
  • Cough or sneeze without covering their mouth
  • Spend too much time on their cell phones (texting/social media, etc.)
  • Gossip
  • Interrupt or talk to coworkers while they’re on a phone call
  • Look at offensive internet content in plain sight

How people respond to annoying coworkers

pie charts that represent how people respond to annoying coworkers

Now that we’ve established that virtually everyone gets annoyed in the workplace for whatever reason that may be, we were curious to see what people did in response.

We found that 46% of people have gone to a manager or to HR to complain, 2 in 5 people have considered leaving their job (43% of men and 38% of women) and 23% of people have even left a job all because of an annoying coworker.

What we’ve learnt

While we all get annoyed by our coworkers every so often, it’s uncertain times like this that serve as a reminder of how much we appreciate them after all. In a few months, when we’re back in the office and adjusting to our new normal again, we hope you’ll be able to smile at your coworker’s favorite (stinky) food choice rather than grimace, and look for the silver linings in our shared day-to-day office experiences.

Is your business looking for support during this transition to at home work and general uncertainty? Our remote working solutions and phone answering services offer the perfect solutions to keep you, your team and your customers talking.