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Office Expressions – Visual Vocabulary Video

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In this visual vocabulary lesson, you can learn words and phrases to talk about offices and describe where you work.

See 20 office expressions you can use to explain your work environment and develop an understanding for new vocabulary.

QUIZ: Office Expressions

How well do you know the vocabulary from this lesson? Try our 20-question quiz about offices and workspaces.

Either choose the correct option or write the missing word each time. There are pictures to help you.

When you’ve finished, click ‘Finish Quiz’ to see your score. You can then click ‘Restart Quiz’ to have another go, or ‘View Questions’ to see all the right answers.

  • I work in an open plan office. It’s light and modern, but it can be quite noisy sometimes, and it can be hard to focus on my work.
  • My office has cubicles. It’s OK but sometimes I find it depressing that there are no windows and I can’t see the sky.

Is your office open plan? Many modern offices are. ‘Open plan’ means that everything is in one large space, and there aren’t many separate rooms.

Many open plan offices have cubicles. Large offices with many cubicles can be called ‘cubicle farms’. This has a negative meaning. If you describe your office as a cubicle farm, you’re probably suggesting that it’s a boring place to work.

Office cubicle image

  • I work for a start-up, and our office is nice but too small. It’s very cramped and there aren’t enough desks, so we have to hot desk.

‘Cramped’ is a useful adjective. It means that you don’t have enough space. You can use it for many things. For example, if your kitchen is very small and you can’t move around without hitting things, then you could say it’s cramped.

What about ‘hot desk’? Do you know what that means, or can you guess?

Hot desking is a way to share a workspace. If you hot desk, you don’t have your own desk. You share a desk with other workers, and you just take any free desk when you get to work.

Hot desking might be used in companies where people don’t all work at the same time. If employees work at different hours, they can hot desk: as one person leaves, another person can arrive and use the same workspace.

  • After working here for a few years, I got a promotion and was given my own personal office.

In many buildings, having a corner office of your own is considered the best location, because you have views on two sides. On the other hand, the words ‘personal office’ just mean that you don’t share your office with anyone. A personal office could also be a tiny room with no windows.

  • Our company’s quite casual, so people just wear what they want.
  • My company has a strict dress code. You have to dress smartly at all times.

Does your office have a dress code? Do people in your office dress more casually, or more smartly?

You can say ‘dress smartly’ or ‘dress formally’. The meaning is similar.

Learn more about clothing vocabulary with this Oxford Online English lesson: Talking About Clothes in English.

What else? Some workplaces might have a smart casual dress code. ‘Smart casual’ is in the middle between formal and informal. For example, for men, it might mean wearing a shirt and smart trousers, but not a tie or a full suit.

Man dressed in smart casual clothing

  • We have a small meeting room in our office. Sometimes we have bigger meetings, and we need to rent a larger space somewhere else.

Many offices have a meeting room. What other rooms might you find in an office? Can you think of three?

Bigger offices might have a conference room – like a meeting room, but larger.

Watch this business English lesson from OOE for more phrases on meetings: Attending Business Meetings.

You might have a copy room, for making photocopies or printing documents. You might have a staff room or a break room, for employees to eat and relax.

An office could have an IT room or a server room, with computer equipment.

  • We have a copy room with a photocopier and a heavy-duty printer. The copier tends to break a lot, or the paper gets jammed.

‘Heavy-duty’ describes something that can do a large amount of work reliably. You can use it for other things, too. For example, if you work in construction, you might need heavy-duty boots – tough boots that can protect your feet.

Do you often have problems with printers or photocopiers at work? These machines are notorious for being unreliable. A common problem is a paper jam – the paper gets stuck inside the machine, and you have to open it up to try to get it out.

Get more practice with vocabulary to talk about technology with this listening lesson: Computer Problems.

  • Our office still relies on paper records for many things, so everyone has to know how our filing system works.

If your office still keeps paper records, you might use filing cabinets to keep files and records organised.

File cabinet in an office

  • Our company decided to go one hundred per cent paperless recently, so all records are digital.
  • On the other hand, many companies are trying to use less paper, for environmental or budget reasons. If your company doesn’t use paper for anything, you can say that you work in a paperless office.
  • Our office has a lot of security. Most internal doors are kept locked and you need a swipe card to open them.
  • Cameras monitor all areas of the office. Staff don’t like it, because they feel they’re being watched all the time.

If your office has a lot of security measures, like card-locked doors, CCTV cameras or security guards, then you can say your company has tight security.

Another useful word is ‘surveillance’. Many security measures, like cameras, might be used to track employees, and see where they go and what they do. This is an example of surveillance – devices or rules designed to monitor employees.

That’s all. Thanks for watching!

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