The Office Culture: What School Doesn’t Prepare You For


The Office Culture: What School Doesn’t Prepare You For

By: npope
  7093 reads

The longer and longer I’ve been at my co-op job, I realize how little I know, and how many things I still need to learn. What I am referring to is not necessarily “textbook" knowledge, but instead it is work experience related.

I currently work as a marketing assistant, and my only real ‘work experience’ prior to this is a server. Since my work experience in an office environment was non- existent, I had to adjust to this newfound concept I like to call the ‘office culture.’ Here are a couple of tips I learned to survive and thrive in this culture, take a look:


On my first day on the job, I was really excited and a little too peppy when I gave my supervisor a big “Good Morning” on my first day at 8am. Depending on who you work with, some people might not be morning people, or some people may not react in the way you anticipated. Normally, at the restaurant I work for, a cheery ‘Good morning’ would be totally acceptable, but in some workplaces and depending on your co-workers, it might be a little much. So, it is a good idea to start observing and making mental note of the organizational culture and expectations, including how colleagues interact with one another, so you are able to adapt to the company's culture.

The good thing about this is that in my workplace, people seem to express themselves a little more genuinely. In a restaurant, I’ve been trained to put my frustrations or any negativity on the back burner because customers are not there to hear about your problems! But in an office, it's sometimes okay because when you talk to your colleagues about what is going wrong or how things are not working, they might give you some suggestions to help improve your situations. Just remember to always portray yourself in a professional manner regardless of how frustrated you get, and to try and be considerate toward your co-workers.

Pains of the desk job

I was always very excited about the prospect of having a desk job, and don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy it, but there are some aspects of a desk job that are a little less than ideal. For instance, did you know it can be physically ailing to sit at a desk for a day? I realize that sounds a bit dumb, but it is true! People get carpal tunnel, back aches, headaches and may experience general restlessness. Most people think that siting at a desk all day is easy, trust me - it's not. It’s quite easy to feel extra sleepy and tired when you are staring at a screen all day, so I’ve picked up some tricks of the trade to make the physical act of sitting a little easier:

1. Go to the washroom: You are not in school, it's okay to leave your desk and use the washroom! Your bladder and your restless legs will be thankful. I find that washroom breaks bade well with all the tea I drink at my desk too!

2. Be physical during your break: Most companies offer two 15-minute coffee breaks, and one 30-minute lunch break, but always check with your manager first about company policy regarding break time. Many of my co-workers spend this time walking to the nearest coffee shop, jogging in the trail by my workplace, and even going to the nearby strip mall and shop!

3. Do exercises at your desk: As strange as this may sound, doing simple exercises like lifting up your legs and tapping your feet make sitting at your desk for a long period of time a little easier.

Online Professionalism

Dealing with co-workers via email was another practice that I needed to adjust to. I’ve always been able to talk to them face-to-face, and it was instantaneous. Email is a huge part of ‘the office culture,’ and I’ve learned a couple things through observations:

1. Hit ‘carbon copied’ only when necessary: Sometimes people are carbon copied to emails, and they are not even expected to respond. Sometimes it's just to keep people in the loop, but only carbon copied them if they need the information because...

2. Try not to send too many emails: it’s annoying. People are busy.

3. Proofread and be reader friendly: There’s nothing worse than receiving an email that is long, sloppily written and hard to read. It’s a pain! Make an effort to proofread and be concise with your emails.

These may seem like unimportant and small matters, but I find that some of these best practices have helped me with my current position. Hopefully after reading this, you will be better prepared when you start working in an office environment for the first time!

Natalie is a fourth year Communications and English student with a love for writing and learning. She is in the midst of her first co-op workterm as a marketing assistant, where she is learning many practical skills and life lessons that inspired her to write this blog series. She has previously volunteered as an Orientation Leader, and is currently volunteering as an FCAT Mentor.

Posted on October 01, 2012