General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Office kitchen etiquette?

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We've shifted our office organization around, and now our group shares a floor with three other groups with whom we had not shared communal space before.  In the prior setup, there were three larger central kitchens that the entire company shared (and at least one of them had a hot-water dispenser).  Now, each floor has its own kitchen with fridge, microwave, etc.  Two kettles for boiling water for tea/coffee have appeared in the kitchen, and I know they must belong to someone in the other groups.  We don't cross paths very often, and even if we did, I'm not sure who I would ask about ownership. 

So, the central question is: Can I use the kettles?  Are they tacitly communal property since they're on the kitchen counter?  Or should I put up a note asking if I/others can use them?  If so, how should such a note be phrased?


I'd just use the equipment. Any appliances in the office kitchen I'd assume to be company property, and therefore shared. Depending on the company, I'd feel the same about crockery, cutlery and basic supplies (e.g. tea, milk).

 Anything that's clearly personal property (e.g. a mug that doesn't seem to 'fit' with the rest, lunches, snacks, or 'fancy' tea/coffee) I'd leave alone.

In our office, items are for communal use unless they are labeled as being for personal or specific group use.

Just make sure you refill when needed.

If they decide they don't want them used by everyone, a note will show up shortly.

I generally consider anything in a communal kitchen to be communally available, subject to reusability.  If I can render it the same after I'm done, then I'll use it without asking.  For example, since I can use a dish and then wash it to return it to its before-use state, I will.  I can use a toaster or microwave without ruining it for anyone else.  But I won't take slices out of a loaf of bread because I can't return them when I'm done.  In this case, a boiling kettle can be used and washed/put back on the counter with no damage or loss of use, so it's reasonable to use it unless someone specifically asks you not to do so.


Not sure if your company has a group email distribution list, but an email to the group asking permission might save a nasty note later. I'd agree with the others that they are probably free for use, but an email might be worth a shot just in case.


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