The office fridge is a vital source of daily sustenance and tasty pick-me-ups to keep you and your colleagues going, yet it can also be a source of serious contention. When it comes to fridge manners and fridge cleanliness, it’s often the case that not everyone is pulling in the same direction and so we’ve jotted down 7 tips to help you avoid all the upsets that go along with the office fridge.

One pepper was only recognisable as such by its stalk, the rest camouflaged beneath a blanket of mould. #bürokühlschrank — Hirn und Sieb (@Hirn_Sieb) 20. Dezember 2012

If you share an office fridge with your work colleagues you undoubtedly know the problems: orphaned foods for which no one claims responsibility, packs whose contents are no longer recognisable, unattended spillages, out-of-date foods, and the list of horrors goes on. Unfortunately, these scenarios happen on a fairly regular basis with a shared fridge, so we have put together a few suggestions to help prevent the office fridge becoming centre-stage for inter-colleague warfare.

Tip 1: Each person is allocated a small amount of shelf space

There’s often a polarity here: you have Theresa the receptionist using only a modest amount of space for her daily lunchtime salad, whereas office manager Dawn spreads out packs of cheese, ham and a clutter of plastic tubs all over the place. Fridge manners dictate that every user should do their very best to keep things tidy and take up only a small amount of space – do not underestimate the enormous bad feeling that territory issues can cause.

Tip 2: Deal with spillages promptly

It’s inevitable that, every now and again, something will get spilled or leak out in the office fridge, and the worst thing the perpetrator can do is take a three wise monkeys approach of ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’. The office motto has to be: ‘You slop it, you mop it!’ There can be no moral cowards – otherwise, the clock starts ticking for a disgusting future find – all are called upon to clean up their mess promptly.

Tip 3: Adopt a regular cleaning rota

A cleaning rota helps to ensure timely, organised cleaning, and prevents the same people always having to take responsibility for the fridge’s cleanliness and hygiene. A thorough cleaning should be scheduled at least once a month and, at that time, orphaned or date-expired foods should take an instant journey to the rubbish bin (more about that in Tip #4).

Tip 4: Food that ‘doesn’t belong to anyone’ gets dumped

Ownerless foods and abandoned items should, at the very latest, be removed and binned during the monthly cleaning, as mentioned above. If items start to mould, smell or otherwise become a health risk between rota cleanings, someone should take action and dispose of them (perhaps the person responsible for the next rota blitz). Any inedible-looking, unmarked or unclaimed foods should be identified and committed to the bin.

Tip 5: Hands off your colleagues’ food

This really ought to be a given: you only eat what you have put in the fridge and what belongs to you. What a lot of people don’t seem to appreciate is that those who ‘help themselves’ to colleagues’ food are not only being disrespectful, they are actually stealing from them. If this happens just once, it might be forgiven but, if the act is repeated, it can lead to serious conflict between workmates. Notes placed on foods can help – just labelling the food with the owners name can work wonders, or maybe attach an amusing or cryptic note

Tip 6: Only store what you can eat

Shopping TRolly

The office fridge is for all, so do not bring in and store a week’s worth of food! For one thing you’ll forget what’s there, and for another it’s contra to Tip #1 (see above). As a rule of thumb: only store enough food to see you through the day, and possibly the next day too – and only bring in new food once the first lot has been eaten or cleared. Offer any quality leftovers to your colleagues – maybe someone wants that last slice of cheesecake because it’s just too good to waste!

Tip 7: Discuss violations with your colleagues

Arguments will only be avoided if all fridge users act considerately and keep to the rules and the rota. Any miscreants will need to be politely advised of their offences and, in the case of repeat offenders, sanctions might need to be taken. Penalties for violators could include: buying cakes/coffee for the team or extra cleaning duties. What do you think? In your experience, are there any other ideas that might help to prevent the office fridge from becoming a battleground? Please share your ideas with us by using the comment function below this post.

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