Taylor Tobin
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If you work in an office environment, a dedicated kitchen area can be a really useful and desirable amenity. Having access to a microwave, a fridge, dishes and silverware allow you to expand your midday meal options (so you’re not stuck with a sad desk salad or a squished PB&J), and some newer office buildings even offer swanky kitchen bonuses like Nespresso coffee machines and taps for draft beer.

However, a shared office kitchen requires teamwork from all users; you’ve gotta work together to keep the kitchen a reasonably tidy and welcoming environment for anyone who needs it. If you find yourself in a kitchen-equipped workspace, do your part to keep the peace by avoiding these 3 controversial activities. 

1. Leaving your dirty dishes in the sink.

Last month, comedian Andy Richter posted a Tweet lamenting the frequent messes left in his office kitchen, stating this all-too-relatable observation: “It is astonishing to me that people I work with leave dirty dishes in the office kitchen sink for interns to do. Astonishing.”

And you know what? Richter’s completely right. It is astonishing that adult humans in the professional workforce don’t realize that they need to clean up their own messes. So we implore you: do your own dishes. Every single time. Don’t leave it for the interns. Don’t leave it for the custodial staff. Just grab a sponge and some dish soap and get to work. And if your office has a dishwasher (as Richter’s does, according to his follow-up Twitter comment), you have even fewer excuses.

2. Using the microwave for strong-smelling foods.

This one’s a pretty well-established “don’t” for good shared-kitchen citizens; the “fish in the microwave” cliche is a trope for a reason. Even so, every office has a few people who don’t think that this unofficial but generally-accepted rule applies to them. Hot tip: it does.

According to Alison Green of Ask a Manager, “you can absolutely have a policy against heating up strong-smelling food in the office microwave, and plenty of offices do.” But even if your workplace hasn’t expressly banned pungent foods from the microwave, it’s still a practice to avoid. If you can’t imagine a lunch break without salmon, stick to cold preparations like salads or chilled noodles. As an alternative, you can spring for a single-serving crockpot and plug it in when you arrive at work. By the time lunch rolls around, you’ll have a hot meal without marking your territory in the microwave. Everybody wins!

3. Forgetting to label your food.

We can probably all agree that, in an ideal world, there’d be no need to grab a Sharpie and write our names on our food before storing it in an office-kitchen fridge or cabinet. And one day, we sincerely hope we’ll live in a time where common decency prevents folks from swiping other people’s snacks. But that’s not our reality quite yet. For that reason, you need to remember to label your stuff. It’s especially important if you’re one of the fortunate souls who works in an office building with a great maintenance staff; good office custodians perform regular fridge clean-outs (for which we’re deeply grateful!), and if you don’t want your future eats tossed prematurely, make sure there’s a name and date clearly displayed on the items. As for the unscrupulous lurkers who freely take food that doesn’t belong to them...unfortunately, we can’t promise that labeling your leftover quiche will deter such scoundrels, but it may slow them down.