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Andrew Arkley|May 17, 2024

Office Etiquette For New Employees: Our Advice

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If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re about to start a new role… So, without further ado, congratulations! 

Your application hit the spot – no mean feat in a competitive job market. For graduates, currently there are approximately 86 applications per role, up a whopping 23% year-on-year according to the Institute of Student Employers’ Recruitment Survey 2023 via FE News.

But while you’ve achieved the first big step, a new role – however exciting – presents new challenges.

One of the most important hurdles in front of new starters involves learning the unwritten rules of office etiquette.

Understanding workplace etiquette helps you seamlessly blend into your new environment, make positive first impressions, and build strong professional relationships.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of office etiquette for new employees, offering practical advice and guidelines that will help you settle into your new role with confidence.

Whether you’re stepping into your first office role, changing careers, or simply need a refresher, this guide will cover the key points about office etiquette in the UK.

What is office etiquette exactly?

Office etiquette is a set of guidelines and generally accepted behaviours that govern interactions between employees in the workplace. 

Adhering to these office rules helps maintain a positive and productive environment where everyone can feel comfortable, supported, and able to do their best work. Key aspects include communication, punctuality, dress code, as well as how to interact with colleagues day-to-day.

It’s important to note that office etiquette does vary to an extent between companies. So while we’ll cover some of the most common, transferable elements – you will need to be adaptable to your new work environment and policies.

To some extent, workplace etiquette expectations and guidelines may feature as part of your onboarding process but if not, keep an eye out for how your new colleagues tend to act. This is a good way to pick up on any unwritten office rules.

Benefits of good office etiquette

Good office etiquette benefits you in several ways:

  • First impressions matter, and creating a positive impression from day one is important as you establish yourself in your new workplace
  • Understanding and practising proper etiquette can enhance your reputation from day one – and help you settle in more seamlessly
  • But fundamentally, good etiquette benefits teamwork, company culture, and the overall atmosphere of the office

In short, good etiquette helps foster better working relationships, which can lead to increased productivity and efficiency within your department.

Here are our top tips for new employees looking to demonstrate good office etiquette:

#1 Dress appropriately

First impressions start with how you present yourself and your company’s dress code will dictate your choice here. 

Understanding the nuances between formal business attire, business casual, and smart casual can help you dress appropriately. Formal business attire typically includes suits for both men and women, with ties for men and formal blouses or shirts for women. 

Business casual is a step down, with trousers or skirts paired with shirts, blouses, or polo shirts. Smart casual, the most relaxed style, involves trousers, skirts, or smart jeans paired with a smart top or jumper.

If you’re unsure what’s acceptable, observe how others dress during the interview process or ask HR for clarification. 

Our top tip? It’s better to be slightly overdressed on your first day and adjust your style as needed.

For more advice around professional clothing, check out our guide to informal interviews – what they are and what to wear.

#2 Be punctual

Punctuality is crucial when starting a new job. Arriving at your desk at least 10 minutes before your start time reflects your commitment to the role and respect for others’ time (especially while you’re still new to the role). 

This is still the case even if you’re remote or hybrid working. It also gives you a moment to settle any initial nerves, make a coffee, and take a comfort break before kick-off!

Meeting deadlines for tasks and projects is always going to be important – but unforeseen issues may crop up.

The key here is communication. Let your manager or colleagues know as early as possible to engage their support, particularly if you’re going to be late for work unexpectedly.

#3 Communicate professionally

Effective communication is a cornerstone of office etiquette. 

Polite greetings on arrival, such as a simple “good morning” or “hello” can create a friendly atmosphere. In emails, keep your messages clear and concise, starting with a polite greeting and ending with a courteous sign-off.

When speaking to someone in-person, practise active listening by paying attention and avoiding interruptions. Showing genuine interest in others’ ideas helps build rapport. 

It goes without saying, in all interactions be respectful by refraining from raising your voice or using inappropriate language.

#4 Respect personal space

At the heart of good office etiquette is good manners. Treat others as you’d want to be treated, behave as you’d behave in wider society.

Of course, respecting personal space is crucial in the workplace. Avoid placing your belongings on someone else’s desk or using their equipment without permission. If your office has shared spaces, like meeting rooms or kitchenettes, leave them clean and tidy after use.

In a busy office, there are always going to be disturbances. But do be mindful of noise levels and keep personal conversations and phone calls at a low volume. 

If you’re listening to music, use headphones to avoid disturbing colleagues.

#5 Observe office policies

Familiarise yourself with your company’s office rules and policies, such as lunch break schedules, sick leave procedures, and reporting absence. Stick to your assigned work hours unless agreed otherwise with your manager.

Understanding and following these rules demonstrates reliability and respect for your employer and colleagues.

And while many of us use our smartphones for work, remember social media should be reserved for break times or after hours unless your role involves managing company accounts.

#6 Keep a clean workspace

Maintaining a tidy workspace reflects your organisational skills and shows a level of respect to the office environment and your colleagues. 

Regularly organise your desk to keep it neat, and avoid clutter that could distract you or your colleagues.

In shared spaces like meeting rooms, kitchenettes, and printers, leave the area clean and tidy after use. 

#7 Maintain professional social etiquette at work

Social interactions outside the workplace can influence your professional relationships. Attend company social events if possible, as they offer opportunities to network and build rapport with colleagues.

If you’re having drinks with colleagues, do so responsibly and avoid excessive consumption, maintaining a professional demeanour even outside the office is important.

Be inclusive in your social activities to foster a sense of belonging among team members, including everyone helps build a positive team culture.

Looking for more ‘first day at work’ advice? Here’s how to make the right impression on your first day at work.

And even if you’re quitting a role, office etiquette still applies to your leaving drinks! Here is our guide to some ‘last day at work’ dos and don’ts.

Open-plan office etiquette 

Open-plan offices are common in the UK and come with unique etiquette challenges. 

Noise control is crucial, so keep conversations at a low volume and use headphones for conference calls.

Avoid interrupting colleagues if they’re busy, and use email or messaging platforms for non-urgent queries. 

If your office follows a hot-desking system, leave the workspace as clean as you found it for the next user.

Virtual office etiquette

With the rise of remote work, understanding virtual office etiquette is crucial. 

In virtual meetings, dress professionally (avoid pyjamas!), ensure good lighting, and minimise background noise. 

Respond promptly to emails and messages during working hours to show your availability.

Communicate your working hours clearly and update your status on messaging platforms, and let colleagues know if you’ll be away from your desk for an extended period.

Final thoughts: Office etiquette (UK)

Mastering work etiquette is key to a successful career and positive work relationships.

As a new employee, make an effort to observe, listen, and adapt to your new environment. 

By following the core guidelines on workplace etiquette, you’ll be well on your way to making a positive impact and thriving in your new role.

Well done for finding a new job. That can be challenging, which is why our CV writing services are in high demand.

For more guides on professional success and employment support, check out the PurpleCV blog and don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team of career experts.

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