Work & Office Culture in USA – Things to Know for First Timers
USA is one of the most popular travel sites, not just for leisure, but also for business and education. And despite what the media has termed as the “Trump Slump,” with oversees visitors declining 4% in 2017, as compared to 2016, there still were 41 million tourists who entered USA in 2017.
If you are visiting America on work, one thing that you will notice is how different office culture is in the US, as compared to the rest of the world. This nation appears to have found the right balance between casual and friendly and professionalism in the workspace.
The office environment tends to be informal, with no apparent hierarchy that differentiates seniors from their subordinates. Employees are treated as equals and their views are welcomed and valued in most situations.
And, when it comes to employee interactions, unless you are interfering with someone’s private life to an extent that makes them uncomfortable, you will find most people very helpful and warm. This forms a good environment in which to build genuine connections that will help you out in the long run.
It’s a great idea to get Travel/Medical insurance when traveling to USA. As medical cost (even for the common cold) can run into hundreds of dollars in the US, it is recommended that you get good medical insurance, before your trip. Good thing is that if you buy it online before your trip, it may be cheaper. Compare & find a good plan here.
Traditional working hours in the US are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Of course, there are businesses that follow a different pattern, based on what they do and which time zone they need to address. There is usually an hour’s lunch break, as well as two breaks of 15 minutes each. IT companies offer more flexible working hours that most other businesses.
There are certain contract-based projects that focus mainly on delivering results. They usually don’t stick to any specific working hours, giving top priority to delivery. However, the maximum full-time is capped at 40 hours a week and at 30 hours a week for part time jobs.
Unless the company policy asks you to dress formally, you have the freedom to dress casually. This only adds to the informal atmosphere at the workplace, which makes it comfortable for you to work long hours, without feeling stressed.
US citizens seriously value for their leisure time, which they use wisely to de-stress and unwind. Americans are highly conscious of their health and pay immense attention to office hygiene as well.
Tips to Adapt to the US Work Culture
- Try not to use your native language when talking in an US office or at a social gathering. This will push people who don’t understand the language away.
- Don’t nod your head when trying to say yes. Express yourself verbally because nonverbal gestures tend to be different for different cultures. In fact, try not to walk too close or you’re your arm around the shoulders with anyone in US offices.
- In the US, walking or sitting in extremely close proximity with a person of same sex can lead to you being perceived as a homosexual, while doing so with someone of the opposite sex might make it seem like sexual harassment.
- Familiarize yourself with terms that have a negative connotation, such as using the word “Black” for African Americans.
When working in America, stay prepared for a lot of meetings, which is an integral part of the work culture. These meetings are often looked upon as an opportunity to share ideas and opinions, while raising objections, rather than a platform to make big decisions.