With its laidback, productivity-focused culture, working in Australia can be very different compared to other countries. From the dress code and atmosphere to employers’ expectations of new hires, Australian workplaces are generally more informal. Although, there is still a standard of high-quality output as well as a few other subtleties to be aware of.
Approaching graduation and ready to jump into your career? Here’s our guide to navigating the Australian workplace with ease.
Even in a relaxed country like Australia, arriving on time to work is important. Standard office hours are 9am to 5pm with an hour for lunch, which can usually be taken whenever you choose (check with your boss if they don’t make this clear). In some industries, your working hours will be set by your employer, but they should generally follow a regular pattern (unless you’re working on a casual basis). Meetings are normally scheduled at least a couple of days in advance and you should also request holidays or other days off with plenty of notice.
Dress the part
Depending on the industry, office dress codes in Australia vary widely. In creative fields, smart casual dress is usually appropriate, while professions like law, finance and other technical jobs are more formal, especially in capital cities. If you’re looking for a job in retail or hospitality, you will likely be provided with a uniform or will need to follow company guidelines. If you’re unsure, take cues from your colleagues on your first day.
Your appearance is also important before you start a job. When going in for an interview, it’s safer to dress more formally. For an office job, this might mean a suit (for men) or other formal business attire.
Asking smart questions is often seen as a sign that you’re paying attention at work. If you’re confused about what is expected of you or have questions about a particular task, it is perfectly fine to ask your colleagues rather than trying to figure it out on your own. Choose a moment when your coworker or supervisor seems like they have some free time to clear up any doubts and make sure to thank them for their help. For more information on how to manage workplace interactions, Study NSW is offering a free workshop for international students covering business etiquette, workplace communication skills and employer expectations.
Go for a handshake
Australians generally greet each other with a handshake (especially when meeting for the first time) or a simple ‘hello’ without any physical contact for more familiar acquaintances. Thanks to the relaxed workplace culture, friendships at work are common, including going for drinks or coffee outside of work hours. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your coworkers, so feel free to make conversation with them – as long as it doesn’t distract from getting your work done.
Don’t forget to network
Whether you’re hoping to be hired for a better position within the same company or to switch industries altogether, networking is an essential part of your professional success. Australians value personal connections and are likely to look for familiar names as well as experience and performance when hiring or promoting employees. Start by seeking out local networking events, like this one run by Study NSW, as well as making the most of social media platforms like LinkedIn.
Keep it equal
Compared to other countries, Australia has a less formal office hierarchy. Most companies encourage the same level of friendliness between all employees, and your boss will likely be open and approachable. This means that you may have the opportunity to learn about lots of different aspects of the business, not just the part that you’re working on. However, it is important to remain professional and respectful of your superiors’ time.
Take it easy
Australians prefer to maintain a low-stress work environment. Employees are expected to help each other out with extra work, leave the office on time, and keep a light atmosphere. Even if you are feeling overwhelmed, try not to complain to coworkers or emphasise your huge workload. Instead, address the problem calmly with your manager or someone else who can help you figure out a solution.
Learn Aussie slang
Making jokes and using slang words is part of many Australian offices. For international students still perfecting English, this can be tricky at first, but don’t worry; as you spend more time in your job, you’ll get the hang of Australians’ unique communication style. Learning slang like “arvo” for afternoon, “bludger” for a lazy person, or “chucking a sickie” for calling in sick to work will have you speaking like an Aussie in no time.
Get it done
The key to succeeding at work in Australia is to get your tasks done well and on time. As remote or flexible working arrangements become more common, Australian employers are increasingly interested in what you do, not how you do it. Don’t feel obliged to work long hours just for the sake of proving that you are a hard worker. Instead, focus on completing whatever work you are assigned as efficiently as possible. If your coworkers and boss see you as a capable employee, you are likely to be given more interesting and challenging tasks.
Play by the rules
Australian workplaces are governed by an extensive legal framework that regulates each industry. While the large majority of employers follow the legal pay and leave entitlements, some do try to take advantage of international students by paying them less or demanding they work longer hours. If something in your job seems unusual or even illegal, you can check the relevant legislation or lodge a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman.