Entering a new work environment can be exciting and overwhelming. If it’s your first real job, woo-hoo! If you’re recently coming off a bout of unemployment, woo-hoo! Whether you’re changing career fields, taking a promotion, or finding your feet in a new city, you want to make the best of your situation. You want to have an office and work experience that is beneficial to you and everyone around you. You don’t want to be the one everyone avoids, and you don’t want to have that desire to move jobs ASAP because you don’t fit in. So, here are six unspoken (though sometimes they are spoken) office rules you need to know to make your new environment a good one. Be present in your new spaces, and take notes, so you can have a seamless transition. 

Can you or should you eat at your desk?

One of the first things you need to figure out is where everyone eats lunch. Every office is different. Do people gather in the kitchenette at a certain time? Throughout the day to prevent clutter? Do people eat at their own desks? Go out for group or solo lunches? There’s no way to notice this beforehand, but check out what others are doing and be flexible that first day–bring something you don’t need to refrigerate and that you won’t mind not eating if you get taken out to lunch. 

Where should you make a phone call?

Another unspoken office rule that must be discovered is the best location for a phone call–personal or professional. Should you make it at your desk? In your office? My last big office job used an empty former lactation room as the default call center–you got up to take a call in there, and you shut the door. Try not to make any major phone calls until you can figure out what’s the protocol for doing so–you don’t want to be shamed for raising your voice at your doctor in the hallways. 

The bathroom situation

Most office tours will show you where the bathroom is–which is obviously important, but as women, we often have to negotiate the bathroom situation more delicately. Do women talk to each other at the mirror? Is one time of day more popular than others as designated bathroom time? Do people do their makeup and hair there, or is it primarily for the normal usage? It’s a weird thing to talk about, I know, but important. 

Social media friend-ing

Something no one likes to talk about until it’s too late is becoming social media friends with your coworkers. In journalism, it was pretty common to follow people on Twitter, but you only friended them on Facebook or followed them on Instagram if you really knew them or after you left the outlet. In my current environment, I don’t have any of my coworkers on any of those networks and that’s fine by me, and seems to be the norm. Figure out what the situation in your office is–either surreptitiously by checking out their accounts themselves, or by simply asking a coworker you trust. 

The dress code

Most offices make the dress code pretty clear in the interview process or welcome packet, but there are often many unspoken rules that you have to either discover on your own or ask about explicitly. Do people wear jeans everyday, or just on Friday? Is there a hierarchy of fashion, where people higher up dress up and the rest of the office plays it casual? Or vice-versa? You don’t want to be overdressed or under-dressed. Play it moderate the first couple days or weeks until you get a better feel for the place. Don’t be the one who shows up in leggings on day one when everyone is in a suit or the one who shows up in a suit when everyone is wearing leggings. 

The shame of the plastic fork

It’s lunchtime. Everyone gathers in the kitchen to get their meals. You pull out a plastic fork and everyone gasps. Are you the only one being unsustainable? Is everyone else using reusable silverware? There’s no way to anticipate this, and of course I’m going to recommend the sustainable option no matter what, but especially if you work in a more progressive environment, you’re going to want to invest in some reusable silverware. Take a look around and see what the situation is. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member