Whether you’re thinking of working in Australia or you simply want a peek into other countries’ work cultures, studying Australia’s general office environment offers many insights into how their culture differs from the United States’. While specific companies have their own cultures, we outlined the general Australian workplace culture, underlying which is the importance placed on equality and a laid-back approach. Here are some highlights:
While getting involved with co-workers is generally frowned upon in the United States, in Australia, it’s really no big deal. As long as employees keep it professional, respectful, and get their work done, no one cares what others do in their free time.
Australians in the workplace tend to keep it casual in their communication, regularly using swear words and slang terms. Swearing is an accepted part of the Australian vocabulary, used in the office to express frustration, for effect, or even for humor.
Australian co-workers tend to socialize after work a lot, and not just on Fridays! They also commonly socialize during lunch and on breaks. It is important to note that “pulling rank” while at any sort of social gathering is not acceptable. Neither is bringing your work with you… in the Australian workplace culture, socializing outside of the office is considered to be completely separate from work.
….but still be professional
Regardless of working Australia’s laid-back attitude, it’s still important to be professional – like being both on time and prepared for meetings. Also, business related emails are still business-related emails, not texts to “mates;” therefore, formal and professional communication is expected in any sort of written correspondence.
…and don’t confuse “laid-back” with lack of work ethic
Australia regularly makes the list of countries with the world’s longest work weeks. Perhaps it is precisely the laid-back office attitude that actually fosters so much productivity. And, going to an office one likes makes long work weeks not such a bad thing!
Do not brag or “put on airs”
What would seem acceptable, or even important, for us Americans to bring up during an interview or business networking event would most likely seem extremely pretentious to an Australian. Obviously potential employers need to know one’s skills and background, but it has to be done carefully… you can’t come across as though you are “putting on airs.” In fact, generally speaking, Australians look negatively upon anyone who appears to be showing off or bragging. And further, Australians tend to downplay their skills and talents in order to foster the idea of equality… which brings us to:
Equality and Lack of Hierarchy
American society has taught us to value hierarchy, but Australian teaches no such thing. The same level of respect is expected among all employees, regardless of their position; lower level staff is treated as equals by those above them. The informal communication previously mentioned tends to relate also to the management and staff, with employees speaking to their superiors in that same style. It would make sense then that being a good team player is important to Australian work culture, as most businesses rely on teams to complete projects.
Paid Days Off
Australians get at least four paid weeks and ten paid public holidays off, while we Americans are not even legally entitled to paid vacation. Although the majority of employees do get national holidays off with pay, one in four gets no paid vacation at all, not even holidays. In fact, research of all developed nations has found that Americans get the least paid vacation time in the world.
If you are considering either taking a job in Australia or moving there, it is important that you familiarize yourself with their cultural practices in the workplace so that you can not only be competitive in finding work, but also so that you can excel in the job once you get it!