Offensive odour tops list of most irritating co-worker habits

Britons work more hours than anyone else in Europe, according to the EU’s own figures; a total 42 hours and 18 minutes a week.

The only other major economy where people spend more than 40 hours a week in the office (on average) is Germany, with 40 hours and 24 minutes.

It is therefore imperative we get on with our colleagues, after all, we spend more time with them than our own family and friends! However, sometimes, this is easier said than done. It’s only natural that our colleagues will (occasionally) rub us up the wrong way!

Inspired to explore the relationship we have with our co-workers, two surveys of working Brits have been carried out. The first to list the “most irritating” habits they have noted in the workplace. Then, once a list was compiled, the other survey was conducted to identify which 10 habits were the most unbearable!

The most featured response was “offensive body odour” with 43 per cent of Brits agreeing poor personal hygiene was highly offensive in the workplace. The next most irritating habit was “ignoring emails”, followed by “not washing up”– at 30 per cent.

Other results in the top five include “messy desks”, with one respondent noting their colleagues overuse of tissue paper, which never ends up in the bin, just piled high on the offender’s desk.  “Interrupting when people speak” featured fifth – at 21 per cnet.

Further down the top ten is “staying in the toilet too long”, “talking loudly on the phone” and “smelling of cigarettes”– at 15 per cent. While “cooking smelly foods” in the staffroom and “wearing the same clothes” too often closed the list.

Unsurprisingly, there was a difference in response between the sexes. Indeed, both men and women were highly irritated by offensive body odour but communicative difficulties annoyed ladies the most, with ignoring emails and interrupting when people speakfrustratingly put forward by female respondents. It was also the fairer sex who picked up on their colleagues wearing the same clothes more often than their male counterparts.

Alternatively, men were far more repulsed by mess– with not washing up and messy deskspresented as maddening. Male respondents were also more likely to pick up on overbearing smells, with cigarette smoke and smelly foods making them feel uncomfortable in their workplace environment.

Charles Bloom, managing director of, who commissioned the research, comments: “When you’re working with people for over eight hours every day, conflict is unavoidable. It’s human nature! We don’t get to choose our colleagues, but we must work as a team – otherwise it has a negative effect on business.

Communication is key. If certain “irritating” behaviours are reoccurring, and there is something you can do to change it, communicate your point and action plan moving forward. For example, if you are noticing the washing up piling up in the staffroom sink, suggest a rota whereby each employee has their turn clearing up.

Of course, things like offensive body odour are personal and therefore more difficult to address but this doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence. You’re in work often enough to know it has to work for you too.”