Offensive Odour Tops the List of “Most Irritating” Co-Worker Habits!


  • Britons work more hours than anyone else in Europe; a total 42 hours and 18 minutes a week.
  • Offensive body odour tops the list of “most irritating” co-worker habits – with 43% of the vote!
  • Communicative difficulties like “interrupting when people speak” annoyed female workers the most.
  • Male workers are maddened by mess and strong odours, like colleagues cooking smelly dishes at lunch.


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, conducted two surveys. First, 1,002 working Brits were surveyed and asked to list the “most irritating” habits they have noted in the workplace. Then, once a list was compiled, another survey was conducted to identify which 10 habits were the most unbearable! Vapourcore found the most featured response was “offensive body odour” with 43% of Brits agreeing poor personal hygiene was highly offensive in the workplace. The next most irritating habit was “ignoring emails” (31%), followed by “not washing up” – at 30%. Other results in the top five include “messy desks” (26%), 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%. Further down the top ten is “staying in the toilet too long” (20% - with noted ‘records’ of colleagues staying up to 30 minutes in the loo!), “talking loudly on the phone” (18%) and “smelling of cigarettes” – at 15%. While “cooking smelly foods” in the staffroom (12%) and “wearing the same clothes” too often (10%) closed the list.


The most irritating co-workers' habits


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 speak frustratingly 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 desks presented 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, 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” behaviors 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.”

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