Help in Acclimating to New Job
July 23, 2014 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I haven't had a job in an office in over ten years. I've gone to school, I've done freelancing, but it's been over ten years since I had to get to an office and work for several hours and then come home. I start next week and was wondering what advice you might have in terms of acclimating to a new job after working on my own (or being in school) for so long.

For context, the company is a small Internet startup that's been around for a few years. There's probably about 15-20 people in the office on any given day.

While I know that some of this will be best answered by my co-workers or my supervisor, some questions I have include:

- what's the accepted "etiquette" in offices these days with regards to using cell phones to check texts or personal emails? Also, what are the pros and cons (aside from usage) of connecting to their WiFi vs. leaving it on 3G? (AFAIK, they don't give people new cell phones, but we're supposed to use our own to keep connected to some company chat thing.)

- The computer I'll be using will be a laptop that I'll be expected to bring to and from the office. While I won't need to use it at home for anything but work, do you think I should feel comfortable doing personal things on it outside of the office?

Basically, I'm experiencing some anxiety about all of this and I'd like some advice in navigating this transition from working on my own, during my own hours, in my own space, to working with others, during regular business hours, in another space. It'd be a bonus if you could help me navigate the line between "business" and "personal" in terms of technology use in an office. Thanks!
posted by sockermas to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Every office is different, so regardless of the answers you get here, you'll need to test the waters a bit to find out how your office operates.

But to answer your questions:

Re: cell phones, everyone I know at work checks texts and emails occasionally on their phone. A few times per day should do the trick - you don't want to be "that person" whose nose is always to the screen. And, on behalf of everyone working in a cube environment, personal calls during working hours are not really okay unless of an urgent nature. The polite thing to do is to step away from your desk, either into an unoccupied office/conference room or outside for a cup of coffee.

Re: personal stuff on the laptop, I'd say it's fine to use the business laptop for some personal stuff, such as email and the occasional Google search or other online chore. But I'd seriously limit this sort of stuff when you have access to your personal laptop.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:59 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A quick look down to check your texts or mail from time to time is fine, and responding is fine if you can do it in less than thirty seconds. You just don't want a person passing by to see you on your phone and think that you have been spending all your time on it. Keep you phone on 3G, work wifi comes with its own issues.

Don't do anything personal on your work laptop. They probably aren't keeping track of your use, but just in case you should just use your own device. It's not exactly a burden to do so.

Also, you are going to bridle at office life and the loss of flexibility and the dismissal of personal time. It's just the nature of the beast, and it'll pass as you get into the routine.
posted by Willie0248 at 10:04 AM on July 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have been working in office for a long time and I still get anxiety about a new job. Honestly one thing that works for me is to just know that it's going to stress me out and be totally exhausting, try to do as much self-care as possible, and try not to get through the first couple weeks.

Definitely try to set yourself up with a good sleeping routine. If you have anxiety you know that anxiety can make you exhausted, and that you're more anxious when you're tired. Also I personally cleared my schedule on work-night evenings for the first few weeks so I could have enough downtime. I was way too tired for Friday happy hours the first few weeks, although I made an effort to go to a few early on so I could get to know my coworkers.

In terms of business/personal use of company's probably not great to do personal stuff on your work machine but everyone does it. It's just a fact of modern life. Just know that anything you do either on your work network or on a work machine can be somehow tracked. Deleting browser history and cookies will cover some of your tracks but not all.

Try to pay attention to unspoken norms, especially what your boss does. Personally my office is pretty low-key about texts and such during the day. My boss texts and chats with her husband while at work.

Congrats on the job!
posted by radioamy at 10:17 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Congrats on the new job.
If you have to keep your personal phone connected to work chat they should either cover your data plan or you should use WiFi (and keep anything you do when connected PG).

I don't think texting is an issue, but for the love of your colleagues' sanity, put it on vibrate unless you're expecting an urgent call. And put it on a sane ring tone if you have to have it audible.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:35 AM on July 23, 2014

Congrats on your new job!

I agree, it's really up to each company. At one place, we couldn't use the company computer for email, we couldn't download anything not approved by IT and no streaming music. At the company I just let, they couldn't care less. Download any old shit, listen to Sirius, watch You Tube, use the wifi for your mobile phone!

Typically use good common sense. They'll tell you what their electronic device/internet use policy is, just stick to it. If they don't tell you right off, just ask. It's a normal question.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:22 PM on July 23, 2014

don't leave exactly at 5pm. don't take an hour lunch break. this depends on your particular office culture though.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 1:26 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work in a similar office. Phone use during the day is ok, as long as it's not constant. If you work in an open-plan office, take your calls in a different room. No one wants to hear you talking on the phone.

My company's policy allows for personal use of our work laptops, but it might be worth checking with your manager.

I'll bet that hours are pretty flexible. At my office, that means everyone works from home for an hour or two in the morning, arrives at the office at 10 or so, takes a 45-minute lunch break, and leaves around 6. We have set times thoughout the week when everyone has to be in the office so we can work on group projects and pair programming.

I went from five years of freelancing to this job, and I now love going to the office every day.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:35 PM on July 23, 2014

Ask. You have a window of time when you are new that people will expect you to ask questions. Use it.

Also, expect to be exhausted for the next couple of weeks. Stock up on easy to cook dinners.
posted by kjs4 at 6:06 PM on July 23, 2014

Response by poster: Just wanted to thank you all for the advice (and congratulations!).

Things start a bit later this week and I've been getting to bed earlier and (reluctantly) waking up earlier, so that Day 1 isn't a shock to my system. ;)

I especially appreciate several people bringing up the notion of compensation for data plan use. I'm a little fuzzy on what exactly they'll be asking me to do (do I stay logged in to chat at the office? From home? What?) and will be sure to ask about data plan compensation if I'm supposed to be constantly connected.

Unfortunately, I can't really look to my direct supervisor or even his supervisor for tips on behaviour because they both work remotely for the majority of the week, but I'll be sure to observe the others around in terms of norms like lunch, when they leave, etc, if that's not clear. If it's still not clear, I'll ask a colleague.

Thanks again for helping me to navigate new job stuff. I'm still a little nervous, but much less than I was. Much appreciated. :)
posted by sockermas at 6:49 AM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: Just a short update. Work is great! Loving it so far.

- There's little oversight and no micro-managing.
- Hours are somewhat relaxed. No defined lunch hour or break times. Co-worker went out for a 45m espresso break the other day.
- Laptop & work phone both provided (solving any issues about data plan compensation).
- Personal use of work laptop seems to be okay (other co-workers are watching YouTube, surfing the interwebs, hanging out on Facebook and Twitter), but I won't do much that's personal
- I don't connect my personal phone to the WiFi
- I text occasionally throughout the day (phone is definitely set to silent)

Worst parts:

- Mornings.
- All of my free time is suddenly gone.

Still, things are going well. Thanks to all for your advice. :)
posted by sockermas at 10:02 PM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

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