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07/02/2015 06:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Things Midlifers Need To Know About Today's Office Environment

Koichi Kamoshida via Getty Images

With apologies to that old Oldsmobile ad slogan, it's not your father's office anymore. Things have changed radically in the workplace and here are 10 things midlifers need to know about the new office protocols.

1. Knock before entering a cubicle.
Many of your co-workers will don headphones to drown out the noise around them. Such is life in an open-plan office. But the earphones cause another problem: They don't hear you coming. Try to approach them by walking up to them in their sight line, not sneaking up from behind. Nobody likes to be startled. Even better, send them a Gchat or text asking if this is a good time to talk before you stop by.

2. Headphones are today's "Do Not Disturb" sign; heed them accordingly.
Respect your coworkers who are wearing them. It generally means they don't want to be disturbed. Conversely, it is considered bad form to wear headphones in the elevator, the public kitchen or at meetings. To do so sends the message that you are unfriendly.

3. Work travel is less frequent.
Meetings today are frequently handled by teleconferencing or videoconferencing. In-person meetings happen, but rarely. Why? It's cheaper. During the Great Recession, technology turned physical meetings into virtual events and saved companies 50 percent to 80 percent, reported Bloomberg. So don't expect your frequent flyer program to grow off of your business travel.

4. Face-time with the boss will also be less frequent.
When you want to "talk," you may be expected to use Gchat. In-person talks are generally reserved to deliver bad news. So with that in mind, be grateful that no one wants to see you.

5. "Has a texting relationship" is the new "eats lunch out with the boss every day."
It means that an employee and the boss are chummy and have a friendship that extends outside the office. As for the actual eating lunch part, nobody really does that -- with the boss or with anyone else for that matter. Lunches are generally eaten on-site -- or at your desk. It's a work culture thing.

6. Take that phone call elsewhere.
It used to be that we'd answer our desk phones at, well, our desks. This rarely happens anymore -- even at companies that still have land lines and not all do. If your cell rings in today's office, answer it and head toward the nearest empty conference room or phone room. Our offices tend to be quieter these days and besides disturbing your coworkers, do you really want them all to be privy to your business?

7. Emails don't need to be answered outside the work day.
A boss or coworker might send you a work-related email at 11 p.m. just to get it off her plate. But you really don't need to respond to it as soon as it lands. But yes, you will answer it. Why? Our 24/7 connectivity makes us feel like we should when we really shouldn't. By the way, there are various email schedulers that can be introduced in the office that delay delivery of a missive until you are back on the clock. Maybe at your next face-to-face meeting with the boss you can suggest it?

8. Office snacks are meant to be eaten at the office and not intended to be served at your next party.
While it's certainly within the norm to grab a drink or bag of chips on your way out the door, don't abuse your company's generosity. The company is trying to make your work environment more comfortable, not help you reduce your weekly grocery bills.

9. Facebook is for friends. Twitter is for everyone.
If you are genuinely friends with your co-workers, by all means friend them on Facebook. But if you aren't, why would you? It's important to maintain lines between your work life and personal life. Technology and social media make it easy to blur those lines. You don't really want to see the boss in his bathing suit, do you?

10. Pet-friendly offices are pretty commonplace.
There is plenty of evidence that pet-friendly offices are a growing trend. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 20 percent of U.S. companies have adopted pet-friendly policies. Allowing fur-babies into the workplace is a morale and productivity booster. But if Scout comes to work with you, better make sure he also understands the new office protocols. We'd hate to see him expecting face-time with the boss.

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7 Ways To Smooth Over The Age Gap At Work (Or How To Behave If Your Boss Is Your Kid's Age)
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