The Australian workplace culture is similar but different to most workplace cultures. While Australians have a reputation of being laid back and easy going, they certainly take their work seriously. These values give rise to some unusual and unique traits that may need some explaining.

Newcomers to Australia will notice the following traits about Australians in the workplace.

  • As a rule, most Australians appreciate and expect punctuality at work. This value is often demonstrated by workers being ready for work several minutes before the designated starting time. Punctuality doesn’t begin or end there. Meetings are expected to start on time, stick to the schedule and end within the allocated time frame. Time wasters aren’t appreciated.
  • Australians like to keep their work and family lives separate. This means that they tend to take opportunities to socialise at work but prefer to have their weekends to themselves and their family.
  • Most workplaces in Australia operate with a less hierarchical structure then immigrants will be accustomed to. Generally the workplace culture will place a greater emphasis on teamwork then in many other cultures. The atmosphere is generally more relaxed and there is perhaps less competition between workers.
  • As a rule, Australians are inclined to speak their mind and they don’t shy away from doing so in the workplace. This open communication is further encouraged by the team oriented atmosphere of most workplaces.
  • This willingness to speak fully and frankly can sometimes be a little confronting and confusing. Australians are inclined to use a lot of slang in the workplace and many of them will swear.
    Many migrants are surprised at the level of swearing in the workplace even by senior management. Swearing is part of the Australian culture and can perhaps to be traced all the way back to Australia’s early days when swearing was one way of expressing dissatisfaction with formality and rules.
  • Despite having an image of being laid back an easy-going Australians tend to work harder and longer than workers in many other countries.
    Work start times are usually 8.30/9am to 5/5.30pm and there is generally an hour granted for a lunch break. More and more employers are introducing more flexible working arrangements and most will offer the opportunity to work from home periodically.
    Australians will usually welcome requests to do extra hours work but fully expect to be paid for it.
  • Full-time workers are entitled to 20 days annual leave. Many workplaces still shut down for the Christmas period as this is peak summer time. This tradition has waned somewhat as retail shopping and global competitive demands have required more businesses to remain open over this period but Australians still love the Christmas break.
  • Australian workers tend to cope with stress by using humour. This approach can catch you off guard at first. It’s just the way Australians choose to cope when things go a little pear shaped rather than choose to whine or complain about the situation.
  • The Australian workplace is governed by a raft of rules and regulations. The regulations are designed to protect employees and ensure fairness in the workplace.

The key thing to remember about the Australian workplace in general is that the Australian worker is naturally predisposed to giving you a fair go. If you’re prepared to work hard and work with others there is a fair chance you will adapt to the workplace environment pretty quickly.

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