Student blog: 5 things that surprised me working in an Australian office
Hello, I’m Soomin Jo from Pai Chai University in Daejeon, South Korea – a sister city of Brisbane. I’ve worked as an intern for Brisbane City Council for about two months.
Before I started working here, I was concerned about the new challenges, tasks, or even atmosphere that I was going to face in the workplace. Since everything was an entirely new and different experience for me, it started with awkwardness and I was very nervous at first.
However, while working, I found 5 significant things that surprised me about Australian office life, which helped me settle into the workplace quickly.
1. Clear and open communication
During the work experience, I found a common feature from every worker in the office which is "freedom".
On the first day of working in Brisbane, I had an opportunity to attend a meeting. One thing I can clearly remember from it is that everyone in the room could freely speak up with their opinion and come up with various opinions and suggestions. People respect one another, so every single opinion is considered as valuable and important. I also really like that people are absolutely welcome to ask questions if they do not understand something clearly.
2. Part-time employment is an option
Of all the differences I noticed, part-time employment surprised me the most. This is because there is no such thing in South Korea at all.
Every employee is required to work Monday to Friday. As a result, it is really difficult to find a balance between work and family for many working mothers in South Korea, especially after first starting a family.
This system is excellent, because part-time employment opens up employment opportunities. It’s not limited only for female workers with young children – no matter whether people have children to take care of or not, anyone is able to have part-time employment.
3. Flexible worktime
The standard work hours for an intern are 7 hours and 15 minutes. Taking a lunch break is quite flexible, and it is up to each person whether they take 30 or 60 minutes. To be honest, the best thing about work hours in an Australian office is that work times are flexible – if someone needs to leave work a little early, it is okay so long as their tasks are completed. Staff do not have to wait until their supervisor leaves and there is absolutely no need to ask for permission to leave.
4. Your desk is your space
To keep the workplace tidy, most offices in South Korea advise employees to have snacks or lunch in the kitchen area only. Having food in the office is considered as rude behaviour, however, in an Australian office, people can eat their lunch or snacks at their desk, in the kitchen, or outside. While working here, I found that this custom is convenient and helpful as I can eat while still concentrating on work.
5. We’re on first-name basis!
Last but not least, my favourite discovery of Australian office culture is that everyone calls each other by their first names. Not only in South Korea but also in many Asian cultures, especially at work, people are addressed based on their work positions, for instance, Chief Lee or Manager Kim. But here in Australia, people go by their given names which really highlights Australian friendliness.