For some of us, 2023 is the year we begin our journey into the working world. Whether part-time or permanent, a packer or cashier, a call centre agent, in-service training, or your first job post-graduation, all these roles have something in common: employers require a committed, trustworthy employee with a strong work ethic.

But what exactly is ‘work ethic’? Sure, we’ve all heard the term, but what does it mean, and how does one build a ‘strong work ethic’? According to, ‘ A strong work ethic allows you to focus on tasks, act professionally, be persistent in trying situations, and demonstrate responsibility and dependability in the workplace.’

It may sound simple enough, but the reality could be more complicated, especially once you’ve been at your new workplace for a few months, settled in, and became more comfortable with your job functions and expectations. It can become easy to procrastinate on specific projects and deadlines, spend some of your working hours on non-work related things or spend a little extra time with your colleagues after your lunch break when your manager isn’t in the office to check up on you.

Not to say that there’s anything wrong with enjoying oneself at work or socialising with coworkers, but it can become a slippery slope that could lead to you being seen as unreliable and not serious enough. It could even result in you being overlooked for promotions. Thus, it’s always important to stick to some basics to be seen as a reliable, hardworking employee:

-Always be on time, whether it be sticking to deadlines, attending meetings or clocking into work daily. This demonstrates a committed, punctual individual who can be trusted to use their working hours efficiently.

  • Always maintain a professional, open-minded attitude. Of course, one can’t be expected to be a beaming ray of sunshine 24 hours a day, but you can still strive to maintain a professional, friendly demeanour in the workplace at all times.

If, however, there are personal issues you fear may affect your work performance, call your manager and explain your situation. You’ll probably be able to reach some resolution that allows you more time to deal with your personal problems without them affecting your work.

  • Maintain honesty and integrity at all times. This shows employers that you can be relied upon to manage your work without constant supervision and can always be counted on to do the right thing, whether others are there to witness it or not.
  • Be open to constructive criticism and change. There comes a time, about once or twice a year, when your manager or supervisor will sit down with you to discuss your work performance. This usually forms part of an employee incentive programme which rewards good performance with a salary increase, performance-based bonus or another kind of reward. It’s also a time for you and your manager to go through potential areas of improvement in your performance. This is standard practice at most workplaces and does not mean you are a terrible employee. Nobody is perfect, and most people have things they can improve on, so you need to be open to receiving feedback positively and work to implement any changes deemed necessary.

Whatever workplace or role you find yourself in, try incorporating these basics from your very first day.

We spend most of our everyday lives at our workplaces, so it’s imperative to start on the right foot and build up a strong work ethic that will impress any future employer and set you up for a bright, successful working future.

Tell us: What other advice do you have for new employees?

Unemployed? Read here about keeping motivated here