The Office Coffee Game

And other office etiquette that I completely forgot about.

I started my own marketing business in January of 2008. Since then I have been working completely from home (in yoga pants of course), with short visits to my clients for meeting and things.  And as my relationship with each of my clients grew over time, I started going into their offices even less; we got more efficient and I got more yoga pants.  And Mama Burde is happiest in yoga pants.

OK, I swear this post is not about my obsession with yoga pants.

Earlier this year, a long-term client of mine asked if I could work some regular office hours and become a more important role in their business.  This client is amazing, awesome, all of the above great things and I was grateful and excited for the opportunity.

I started regular office hours for two mornings per week at the start of this month.  Having never had to be at an office, dressed and looking my best since I had kids (our oldest was born in the fall of 2008), I was worried about getting all of us girls out of the house and on the Burde bus in time.

Did I mention my office hours start at 9 a.m.? Not so bad.  But, we sleep around here.

But what I didn’t think about was the fact that I have not been in a professional office environment in just over four years.  That’s a long time.  I have realized over the past month that I am like a bull in a China shop, ramming around the office jamming fax machines, forwarding my phone unknowingly and of course spending way too much time with the coffee maker…which we will get to.

I feel like I’m fresh out of college at my first job.  And exactly what are the office etiquette rules?  I know I can wear jeans on Fridays, but what about just general professional manners?  I do consider myself a professional, but lately I feel like a fool.  Here are a few issues I have blundered through over the past several weeks…

So, say I need to talk something over with one of my new co-workers.  I do the ‘office dance’ in front of their office or cubicle wondering: Do I just walk in? Do I knock even though their door is open or they don’t even have a door? Do I call first even though it’s a small office and they’ll hear my voice not only on the phone, but from the cubicle next to them where I’m at?

And what if they’re on the phone when I get there…do I quietly stalk their telephone conversation and wait for them to hang up or do some awkward hand gesture and tilt my head to the side with my hand in the shape of a phone as if I’m a mime saying, ‘call me!’

And as always with efficiency on my mind, if I can talk in a loud voice and ask them a question, do I really need to get up and walk over to them?  Can’t I just holler (not to be confused with holla) to save myself a little time?

That actually happened today.

The woman in the cubicle across from me has a little window that faces my door.  We happened to make eye contact when I was checking to see if she was there so I could ask her a question.  What did my all-rusted-up-on-office-etiquette-behind do?

I just yelled.

But you know what happened?  She yelled back!

Now since 2008 I have also enjoyed my own coffee, from my own coffee pot, at my own strength.  Office coffee is different.  But what I discovered is that there is this Secret Office Coffee Game.

Here’s how you play.

There are two coffee pots. Each person that goes to get coffee tries to take from the coffee pot with the most in it, assuring each pot – while might be low – does not technically require you to make another pot.  The person that goes into the break room to find two pots of coffee with about a ¼ cup each left, loses.

Guess who loses?  Me.

But overall, I just love my new schedule.  I have managed to get out of the house in time and have successfully sent two faxes!  I also removed my phone from Do Not Disturb so people can actually get through on my line.

As for the Secret Office Coffee Game, I still need to work on that.  I wonder if there is an App for that?