A guide to UK work etiquette

Etiquette. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Etiquette”? According to Merriam-Webster, it is the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life. In layman’s terms, etiquette is the observed proper decorum. 

It is important in all aspects of society and more often than not, individuals with poor etiquette can cost not only you but also your entire team in terms of productivity and communication. A lot of immigrants (50% in 2016) come to the UK for work followed by people who come for education. These people bring with them different cultures, different ways of communicating and have different expectations of what is accepted behaviour. 

According to UK Freelance Statistics, approximately 78% of the public believe that freelancing and flexible jobs help promote a good work/life balance and increased flexibility.  If your business is using freelancers they too have different expectations and different ways of behaving, so that they can fit in with your teams.

It may be clear that freelancing is a good option but it is also important to remember that without proper business etiquette or knowing and respecting one’s culture, any job or communication could fail. If you are a non-UK citizen that aims to work in the UK, here are the basic rules of etiquette you need to adapt to succeed in this foreign community. .

  1. Negotiation – it is understandable that when you are in a meeting it is important to avoid unnecessary topics. The british are known as tough and skilful negotiators but always remain calm and polite during negotiations. The British are also keen to be seen as polite and respectful, so using phrases like ‘That’s interesting. We’ll consider it later’ would mean that they are rejecting your idea. Improve your ability to read between the lines.
  1. Punctuality – Be on time. British people respect punctuality and organisation. Being on time means that you are already late. Try to arrive early for everything. 
  1. English and England – Many foreigners mistakenly use ‘English’ or England as a blanket term to call other countries in the union. Know that the United Kingdom consists of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland; all with different capitals and with unique identities and customs. 
  1. Dress – Be smart and presentable. British people wear suits and ties to the office, polished shoes, combed hair and are often well groomed.  
  1. Attentive and Present – do not get distracted during meetings, so put your phones away, only focus on what is in the room and be present when you talk to people.
  1. The Weather – this is a common ice breaking conversation starter. British people love to talk about the weather, the changing of seasons and how the weather outside is affecting their day. 

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