Office kitchens are a rather important aspect our work environment but are also very often one of the biggest causes of conflict among co-workers.
It is an important area for staff to store and prepare their food as well as beverages. The kitchen becomes an informal meeting place for colleagues to chat as they get their meals ready. It also has the potential to become a veritable war zone as piles and piles of dirty plates and coffee mugs accumulate in the sink and food is either “stolen” from the fridge or left for weeks to go mouldy or rancid.
Let us first take a look at 4 things you need to get right in the office kitchen and then a few ideas on how to keep it respectable.
Accept that the office kitchen is a necessary and important part of your office environment. Don’t treat is as an afterthought and have a small dingy room in the middle of nowhere. Make it a pleasant, well laid out area, close to the company break room. Staff needs a break from their work to clear their head for a short while and this often starts in the kitchen. Provide an environment conducive to this without it causing more stress and chaos in their lives.
Provide at least the basics of a kettle or urn, a fridge and a basic microwave.
A few other items would be of great benefit to the staff and you can get some great ideas on sites like Oven Shopper.
Obviously there needs to be a sink for washing up.
Try to keep the layout as open and spacious as possible. Remember there could be several people all in the room at the same time. Consider staff numbers and have enough space and equipment for them all to be able to do what is needed. You don’t want someone missing out on coffee for example because there was a queue at the urn.
Plan and space the area out logically so that people are not falling over each other trying to get their things together.
Do not neglect the lighting. You want the room to be bright and cheerful. A large window would be ideal for a bit of natural light. If this is not available, carefully selected electric light is fine, just make sure there is enough of it.
This is where things get tricky. For some reason, people who are otherwise clean at home seem to leave an office kitchen in a mess. It is often a case of; I always clean up so I will simply stop. Mess is contagious and when other people come along, instead of cleaning what they use, they simply add to the existing mess.
This can lead to an unhealthy environment and is also a major source of conflict between staff. The first step is to ensure the necessary space and cleaning materials are always on hand.
Here are a few ideas to prevent or minimise the common messy office kitchen problem.
Have A Set of Rules
It would be great if everyone just did what they should but for some reason, most simply do not. Establish a written policy and communicate it with all staff. Make sure they are all aware of the rules and take immediate action when rules are broken.
Post the rules up for all to see and passive reminder signs can also help.
Make A Cleaning Schedule
The greatest cause of the problem is lack of responsibility. People think no one is doing their part so they do the same. If you create a daily schedule this will eliminate the problem and each day, the work is rotated. If there is a mess, you at least know who to talk to.
Keep It Tidy
Despite having a cleaning schedule, everyone should still do their part to keep the area tidy. If they spill something it should be cleaned immediately and if they use up the sugar or water, for example, they should refill it as they go.
Appoint Someone to Oversee the Kitchen
Somebody needs to be in charge to ensure rules are obeyed and the person responsible on the daily schedule is doing their job. They also need to make sure that supplies are replenished, including cleaning material.
Follow these guidelines and your staff will have a clean and happy place to chat with co-workers while grabbing a snack or a quick cup of coffee. Neglect it and the kitchen could easily become a stressful, unpleasant place to go.