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While many aspects of business have been digitised, in-person interaction remains the most important part of getting ahead in fiercely competitive corporate world, says Riandi Conradie, founder of the South African Etiquette Academy.  

“Etiquette is important as it gives an international guideline of how to act in any situation,” Conradie told Business Insider South Africa.

Courtenay Kleu, CEO of The School of Etiquette, says South Africans tends to generally be more casual in office environments.

See also: 9 office bathroom behaviours South Africans are getting wrong – including squeezing pimples

“Etiquette depends on the environment or culture that you find yourself in,” she says.

Conradie and Kleu gave Business Insider South Africa a list of six rules to stick to, especially in open-plan offices:

Never eat at your desk.

Conradie says food smells and might disturb fellow colleagues. It is, therefore, courteous to rather eat in the designated kitchen or open canteen area.

Kleu says while tuna salad is a particular favourite among South African office workers, this can be problematic.

“It can stink out an entire office, so beware.”


Do not make personal phone calls at your desk.

(Pexels, bruce mars)

“If you need to make a personal call, step out of the office,” Conradie says.

This shows you are professional and respect your colleagues. 


Switch off notification sounds.

Kleu says if someone is sitting at their desk the entire day, it is hardly necessary to have their emails ping every time they receive one.

“Mute the tone so that everyone else does not need to hear you received an email which in this day and age is every second minute.”


Limit non-work related conversations.

Happy people during a work meeting

“You yourself might have a quiet day in the office, but the person next to you might be on a tight deadline,” Conradie says.

She says if you would like to catch up with a colleague that was away on a business trip, for example, invite them to the canteen for a chat. 


Don’t use personalised song ringtones.

Young man drinking coffee with friends at café an

Kleu says personalised song ringtones are often extremely annoying for colleagues to listen to.

“When your phone blares out ‘Hit me, baby, one more time’ it doesn’t create a professional impression,” she says.

Kleu advises people to rather switch their cell phone to silent, especially when you leave your desk and can’t pick it up.


Tone things down over the phone.

Portrait anxious scared girl looking at phone seei

People speak up to three times louder over the phone which can be distracting to other people, Kleu says.

“Be cognisant of your voice levels as well as the topic of conversation.”

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