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Your First 2 Weeks at Work

Welcome to your first couple weeks in your new job. They will be exciting and demanding, with so much to learn. Look and listen for a great start.

This article tells you what to expect in the first 2 weeks. In addition to starting to learn about your role and responsibilities, you will need to:

Make notes as you learn about your new job and workplace. You’re dealing with many details, and you may not remember them later.

Learn where things are and who does what

Employee orientation introduces you to your work space, supervisors, and co-workers. It’s not the same as job training. During orientation, you may:

  • Have a tour of your workplace.
  • Learn about the organization’s structure, policies, rules, and safety standards.
  • Get an employee handbook. If you do, they will want you to read it and refer to it when you have questions later.
  • Be asked for an emergency contact in case you get sick or hurt.
  • Be granted secure access. This may be a passcode you need to memorize or an access card that you will need to bring to work every day.

If you do not get a tour of the workplace, ask where you can find:

  • Safety areas like first aid stations, sanitizer stations, emergency exits, and the meeting area (muster point) in case you need to evacuate your work area
  • Personal areas like available parking and storage lockers for personal items
  • Shared areas like entrances and exits, bathrooms, assigned eating and break areas, meeting rooms, and supply closets

Also, if you need to use machines such as printers or shared appliances such as the coffee maker, don’t be shy to ask how to use them if you don’t know.

Learn your organization’s structure

Is your workplace unionized? If you have questions about what being in your union means, ask your union’s shop steward. Your shop steward is an employee who represents the union members for your work area.

Your employer might give you an organizational chart that shows who does what, where each person fits in the organization, and who reports to whom.

You can use the chart as a map to:

  • Help you remember other people’s names and titles
  • Know what roles the employees have and how they fit into the organization
  • Learn the type of work others do, and how it relates to what you do

Some organizational charts show everyone in the organization. Others only show people in upper management positions. If you are not sure where you fit in the organization, ask your supervisor to explain.

When you understand who does what, you get a better understanding of who you should go to get answers to your questions and approvals. This person is usually your direct supervisor. Ask your supervisor or co-workers to make sure you know who you need to speak with for things like:

  • Getting answers to your questions
  • Getting approval for your ideas and the work you have finished
  • Notifying someone if you are late or sick
  • Being allowed to take vacation or other forms of time off
  • Submitting your timesheets, if you use them
  • Reporting something that you think is dangerous or wrong

Get to know the workplace rules and policies

Every workplace must follow provincial laws to protect employees, the organization’s customers, and themselves. In addition to these laws, workplaces develop their own rules and policies that tell employees what is expected of them and what might happen if they do not follow the rules. 

Employment standards

Your employer follows the Alberta employment standards, and you must too. These include rules about:

  • Youth workers
  • Earnings and minimum wage
  • Overtime
  • Holidays and vacations
  • Job-protected leaves
  • Termination

Some rules vary based on your industry and job. Learn what employment standards apply to you.

Understanding your hours and shifts

Some people work during the day—for example, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Others, such as call centre staff, restaurant workers, and hospital employees work in shifts because these places are open for long hours or all the time. If you are unclear about the hours you will work, find out as soon as possible.

Alberta employment standards set out many rules about:

  • Split shifts (schedules)
  • How many total hours you can work in a day or a week
  • The breaks you can take
  • How your employer must tell you about your shifts

But you’ll also want to learn what your employer expects from you in other situations such as:

  • What hours you are supposed to work
  • Working extra hours when that is needed
  • Whether you are allowed to work from home
  • Whether you are allowed to leave the worksite during breaks or lunch

You will be expected to arrive at work and be ready to start your job on time. That may mean you have to arrive a few minutes early to get settled in so you can start working at the posted time for your shift.

Working safely

You have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Learn how to be safe at work and the safety rules of your workplace. Talk to your supervisor about what is needed to be safe and healthy at work and your role in helping to keep others safe. Know that it is against the law for anyone to force you to do work that you think is unsafe.

If you’re a young worker, you need to know some rules and rights that are specific to your age group. Reports on workplace injuries and death show that young workers are often the most injured on the job.

Workplace health and safety laws

Your employer must follow Alberta’s occupational health and safety laws. And safety training is required. For example, you must be taught how to handle toxic chemicals and hazards if this is part of your responsibilities. You also have to be trained on how to wear safety equipment if it is needed for your job.

You have a right to a workplace where you will not be bullied in any way. Bullying can be physical abuse or threats. It can happen to one person or a group.

You also have a right to not to be harassed while at work—or by someone from your workplace when you are not at work. It can come from co-workers, clients or supervisors. This includes sexual harassment, which is when someone behaves in a way that is sexual in nature and that you do not want. Learn your rights and what to do if you are sexually harassed.

Find out if you are covered under workers’ compensation, and how to report an injury. Workers’ compensation is a kind of insurance coverage that helps workers get back to work safely when they get injured on the job.

Workplace health and safety policies

Your workplace will have many of its own rules and policies about health, safety, and daily routines. Here are a few things:

  • Learn where nearby first-aid stations and emergency exits are now. This is better than waiting until a real emergency, which may happen before you have your first drill.
  • Know exactly what you are to do if there is an emergency or crisis. Your employer is required to make this information available to all employees. It might be posted on walls or bulletin boards at the work site, or sent to you electronically. Also make sure you know where your muster point is if you have to leave your worksite.
  • Find out what’s needed if you must work alone, such as whom to call if you get injured or require immediate assistance.
  • Your organization may have rules about physical contact or keeping a distance from others. Find out what your employer’s rules are.
  • Ask your supervisor what to do if you need to leave work during regular working hours because of a personal emergency, such as if an immediate family member has had an accident and you are needed to help them. Find out under what circumstances you may be allowed to leave work early and what approval you require.

Understand the workplace culture

You’ll have to know more than just your work tasks. Every workplace also has a way of doing things and behaving referred to as workplace culture. A workplace culture includes things like:

  • The ways people talk to and treat each other
  • Things that are important to the employer, such as how employees act, how customers are treated, and how day-to-day business is done
  • What the employer values for its employees, customers, and its business
  • The values people bring to the job
  • People’s style of working, such as whether they focus on team work or individual effort

Workplace culture is often unwritten and unspoken. It’s rarely stated in the employee handbook or described by your supervisor or coworkers. It might not be obvious. Learn your workplace culture by watching and listening closely to how your supervisor and co-workers interact with customers and each other. Always try to model healthy behaviour that makes the workplace feel like a positive and productive place for everyone.

Ways to dress and present yourself

Many workplaces have standards on how employees should dress and present themselves. Observe how others in your type of job dress. This includes jewelry, piercings, and makeup.

Wear your uniform, name tag, and employee identification, if required. Think about safety as the reason why you or others need to wear hair nets, gloves, brimmed hats, sunscreen, etc. It all depends on your job.

Know your workplace’s policies or expectations on the use of:

  • ​Cellphones. When and where can you use your personal device? Can you use headphones or earphones all the time or only at breaks?​
  • Fragrance. What is the policy for fragrances? If you were told about a fragrance-free rule, don’t wear anything with a scent. Fragrance-free policies include all things that give out a scent such as perfume, hairspray, and lotions. If there are no policies and you like to use fragrances, ask if others have concerns about scents before using them.
  • Shared spaces. For example, if you are in an open area and everyone works quietly, you should do the same. 

Meeting and greeting

Make a good first impression by introducing yourself with a smile. Look at a person’s eyes when you meet or greet them. Do this with customers and other people visiting the work site.

Keep things positive at work by using acceptable language and avoiding certain topics. Avoid talking to co-workers about the character or behaviour of other co-workers. The term “politically incorrect” refers to things such as politics and religion that are not talked about during work or breaks.

Working well as part of a team

Teamwork is a rewarding way to do the job, and often leads to better, more creative results. But when you’re working on a team, it can be hard to know exactly what people expect you to do on your own.

Ask your supervisor or team leader about the expectations around teamwork. And make sure you understand what your role is on the team. You will get direction from someone, and you may be expected to make some decisions on your own.

Enjoy employee perks

Many workplaces will give you special benefits like lower prices when you buy the products or services they sell. For example, you may get a discount when you buy food if you work at a restaurant or grocery store. Another example is free services such as free treatments if you work in a spa. However, keep in mind that different employees may enjoy different perks. Confirm with your supervisor exactly which perks apply to you, and take advantage of them!

Great work

It’s okay if you don’t know everything at first. You may not feel comfortable asking questions or saying that you don’t understand. If this is true for you, ask your supervisor to pair you up with someone else at work. Or talk to a co-worker who you feel comfortable with.

Your first 2 weeks at work are important to your success. If you stay organized and informed, and get along with others, you will impress people. Use the ideas in this article to get off to a strong start and try this checklist to make sure you are ready to make a good impression.

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