Someone chomping their lunch at their desk, starting an email ‘nice to e-meet you’ or bragging about their morning 10k run is enough to annoy anyone. But what is the one ick that gets on every office worker’s last nerve? Determined to find out the biggest office icks, surveyed office workers and discovered the top offences in the workplace.

Office Ick Ranking:

  1. Stealing milk/food from the fridge
  2. Someone starting a conversation in the toilets
  3. Loud personal phone calls
  4. Cooking smelly food in the microwave
  5. Eating loudly
  6. Leaving message notifications on loud
  7. Oversharing about their children
  8. Cringey email phrases
  9. Typing loudly
  10. Oversharing about their love life
  11. Holding the door when they are too far away
  12. Fitness brags
  13. Unnecessary business jargon
  14. Awkward goodbyes at the end of a video call
  15. Monday morning small talk
  16. Not sharing snacks

The ultimate ick 

From a daily drop of milk in your tea to stealing someone’s much-awaited afternoon snack, the survey revealed that stealing food from the fridge was the ultimate office ick.

In fact, food-related habits seem to drive people mad with cooking smelly food in the microwave (#4) and eating loudly (#5) also making the list.

Also ranking high on the list, is someone starting a conversation in the toilets (#2), having to hear someone’s loud personal phone calls (#3) and leaving message notifications on loud (#5).

Mind the generational gap 

When broken down by generation, the only unanimously agreed ick for all age groups was loud personal phone calls.

  • Gen X (born between 1965-1980) prefer to keep their private life private
    • #1 – Oversharing about their love life
    • #2 – Stealing milk/food from the fridge
    • #3 – Loud personal phone calls
  • Millennials are still as socially awkward as ever and have a hang-up on food
    • # 1- Someone starting a conversation in the toilets
    • #2 – Stealing milk/food from the fridge
    • #3 – Eating loudly
  • Gen Z prefer a little bit of quiet whilst they work and would rather you leave your leftover fish at home
    • #1 – Cooking smelly food in the microwave
    • #2 – Leaving message notifications on loud
    • #3 – Loud personal phone calls

(Almost) bearable habits 

It is not all bad news, especially for those who enjoy small talk on Monday mornings, find it hard to hang up on a group video call and like to keep their snacks to themselves. These icks ranked at the bottom of the list and will probably not end any workplace friendships any time soon.

Helena Young at Startups commented:

Everyone discussing office icks seems to directly coincide with a more consistent return to the office. We’ve got used to having our own space and not having to tolerate others’ personal habits and it appears going back to coworking has brought out our grumpy sides! Some of the complaints are definitely justified though, no one should be cooking smelly food, or chatting in the loos, or eating loudly, in fact I think I might work from home for the rest of the day.

Helena Young, Startups

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.