Business English vocabulary to use during meetings, especially when working from home.
Learn key phrases and expressions that will improve your communication at work and make you stand out.
- English level: upper intermediate & advanced / B2,C1 & C2
- English Skills: vocabulary, reading
- Time: 10 mins
please note: home working can be spelled in these ways: home working, homeworking and home-working!
Business English Vocabulary introduction
Listen & read!
Read by Elisa
Last March during the coronavirus outbreak we were all thrown in at the deep end* and were told we had to stay home and work remotely.
I think some of us were initially excited at the prospect of working from home in our comfortable sweatpants, whereas others of us were left in utter* despair at the thought of meeting virtually and working from our living rooms.
A year on and here we are still getting to grips with* smart working, telecommuting, remote working or whatever other name you prefer to use for it.
Not only have we had to learn how to work from home and organise our days, but also a whole new vocabulary has come into our lives.
Therefore, this blog post is to help you with new words and phrases for remote working. We hope it will help you in communicating with your colleagues but also simply when speaking about your day with friends over a virtual coffee!
thrown in at the deep end* = to make someone start a new and difficult job or activity without helping them or preparing them for it.
utter* (adj.) = complete, absolute
getting to grips with* = to begin to understand or deal with (something, such as a problem) in a direct or effective way
Business English vocabulary to use while home working:
The essential guide to the most common terms being used when remote working
We’ve split the guide into 4 categories:
- High frequency business English vocabulary around home–working
- Different ways to say “working from home”
- How to describe what it’s like working from home; routine and productivity
- How to discuss the challenges of working from home
1. High frequency business English vocabulary around home working due to COVID
This means that you have one meeting after another, so two or more consecutive meetings.
Example> ‘I’m exhausted after an afternoon of back-to-back meetings’
Beforehand means before an action or event.
Example> ‘Make sure you send out the agenda for our meeting beforehand’
Being on the cusp of
Being on the cusp of something means at the point when something is about to change to something else: on the verge of some beginning point or the start of some major development
Examples> ‘Our team is on the cusp of making a discovery that could change the face of modern medicine.’
‘Some companies are not quite on the cusp of changing to an agile organization’
Bogged down with
If you are bogged down with something you are so involved in trying to do something that may be difficult or complicated that you cannot do anything else.
Example> ‘‘I was so bogged down with work and learning how to work remotely that I barely noticed what my children were going through with online lessons.’’
The experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest, especially in one’s career.
Let’s look at this headline from an article in WIRED for our example:
“Companies are finally starting to take staff burnout seriously
As the workforce navigates ongoing uncertainty through England’s second lockdown, businesses are going to new lengths to stave off employee exhaustion”
We can see that burnout is a very real problem in 2021!
Going to new lengths & stave off
Going to new lengths is a great expression to use to mean that you try very hard and perhaps do extreme things in order to achieve something.
Whereas, stave off is a phrasal verb meaning to defend against or keep someone or something at bay; to delay something
Checking in is when you contact your colleagues via zoom or teams for example to see how things are going.
Example> ‘‘Hi Sarah, just checking in to see how you are and how you are getting on with your latest project’
Something is clear cut when it is clear or obvious without needing any proof.
Listen & read!
Example> ‘There is no clear-cut evidence that the new variant of coronavirus – which has been detected in south-east England – is able to transmit more easily, cause more serious symptoms or render the vaccine useless’
You are cutting corners if you are trying to save time and money: do something in the easiest or least expensive way; it can also mean to act illegally.
Example> ‘Risk management is no place to cut corners during a pandemic’
Furlough is when an employee is asked to take temporary leave and the government pays up to 80% of the employees salary during this time.
Example> ‘The scheme was due to finish at the end of April, but the sectors that rely most on furlough would not be fully open by then.’
Let’s see this business English vocabulary example from BBC NEWS
If someone asks you to move back a meeting it means to move it further away from the current time. So if the meeting was scheduled at 9am and someone asks you to move it back an hour then you would reschedule for 10am.
Example> ‘I’m really sorry but can we move back our 11am meeting tomorrow, let’s say by an hour? So midday, would that work for you?’
When you navigate uncertainty you are trying to move forward and steer a course during an uncertain period or state of being.
Listen & read!
Example> ‘Everyone has been navigating uncertainty during the pandemic and this often causes a great deal of stress’
The most important aspects or practical details of a subject or situation.
Listen & read!
Example> ‘Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and discuss how we are going to manage the situation’
Ongoing means continuing or still in progress.
Example> ‘The ongoing world health crisis is having a great effect on our mental health.’
Rule of thumb
Rule of thumb is a way of judging a situation or condition based more on experience than on what is exact: a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on practice rather than theory.
Let’s look at this headline from an article in govexec.com for our example:
To rule out means to exclude and therefore to dismiss from consideration.
‘I wouldn’t rule it out before trying’
Listen & read!
‘Mr Hancock’s comments suggest he is ruling out a “zero Covid” strategy, aimed at eliminating the virus entirely from the UK.’
When you are sidetracked your attention is directed away from an activity or subject towards another one which may be of less importance.
‘Students often get sidetracked by messing around with filters during zoom lessons’
‘Sorry I’m late I got sidetracked, working from home I find myself hanging out the washing and preparing dinner in between calls.’
Take a step back
To take a step back means to stop being involved in something or to temporarily stop being involved in order to look at it from a different perspective.
‘I took a step back to reflect on what direction I wanted my life to take’
Let’s look at this headline from an article in Welcome to the Jungle for another example:
Workaround means to find a way to overcome or avoid a difficulty or problem
Listen & read!
Example> ‘You need to find a way to workaround your differences with your colleague, it’s so hard to work well together if you are constantly competing and judging one another.’
You might be interested in this post
2. Business English vocabulary: ways to say "working from home"
Do your job remotely
‘Doing your job remotely gives you the chance to be wherever you like.’
Digital nomad refers to individuals who work remotely using information and communications technology. If you are a digital nomad it means you work remotely but in a nomadic manner so perhaps by changing city, town or country frequently.
‘I would love to become a digital nomad, changing city or even country every few months.’
‘During the pandemic we have been working remotely however it has been almost impossible to become a digital nomad due to the travel restrictions.’
Smart-working (or agile working) is a well-known business English vocabulary term and it consists of ways of working that make it intelligent. Therefore it should limit frustration and stress to the maximum to bring out better results and quality of life.
Example> ‘Smart-working is supposed to be a more intelligent way of working. However, not done properly, it can have a great impact on our mental health as we isolate ourselves at home.’
Example> ‘Some companies had already started allowing some employees to telecommute before the pandemic’
Work from anywhere
Example> ‘Working from anywhere means freedom as far as I’m concerned, I don’t like being stuck in one place for too long.’
Example> ‘Working virtually can be tough if you have a family at home!’
To be part of a virtual team
If you are part of a virtual team it means you are not working alone but as part of a team that you communicate with daily through virtual platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Teams and so on.
Listen & read!
Example> ‘Being part of a virtual team is great and definitely better than working alone. However it’s not quite the same as being in an office all together’
You might be interested in this business English vocabulary course
Don’t worry! With the words and expressions you will learn in this course, you’ll be ready to deal with these situations naturally and proactively.
3. How to describe what it’s like working from home; routine and productivity
Break up your day
Break up your day means to make sure you take some breaks in between work.
Example> ‘I try to break up my day by taking a 10 minute coffee break in the morning and one in the afternoon. I also try to go out for a walk during my lunch break!’
Work or effort consisting mainly of mental activity and thought.
Example> ‘Nowadays a large number of people engage in brainwork and lack adequate physical movement.’
Brain fog is the inability to have a sharp memory or to lack sharp focus. You may feel confused, disorganised or find it hard to focus on anything.
Example> ‘Some people call it pandemic fatigue, others call it brain fog or “COVID brain’
Let’s look at this headline from an article in The Irish Times for another example:
Create a morning routine
Working from home can become monotonous, waking up and before you even have time to change out of your nightwear into your favourite loungewear , you are already sat at your computer perhaps only 10 metres away from where you just got out of bed.
It’s important to create a morning routine such as waking up, having breakfast and then heading out for an early morning walk before starting work.
Listen & read!
Example> ‘A few months into remote working I realised that I was starting to feel down and I needed to change something. I created a morning routine, up at 7am, breakfast and then a 30 minute walk before sitting down at my desk. It’s really made a difference and I’m feeling myself again.’
Create time to unwind
Creating time to unwind is so important at the end of a working day. It means finding the time to forget about work and what has happened today, what you have to do tomorrow and most importantly RELAX! Maybe you unwind with a glass of your favourite red wine, watching a tv series that you love or having a hot bath!
Listen & read!
Example> ‘I always create time to unwind in the evening after work, I love lighting some candles and just relaxing on the sofa with a good book and a glass of wine.’
End your day with a routine
This is similar to starting your day with a morning routine, sometimes it’s really good to end your working day with a routine! It could be going for a run or doing an online yoga class or quite simply switching off your computer and reflecting on your day and all the positive things you’ve done!
‘I like to end my day with a routine by switching off my computer and putting it somewhere out of sight, I just take 5 minutes to reflect on the working day that has passed and then I enjoy catching up with my husband as we prepare dinner..it’s really nice to share stories about our days and maybe have a laugh about all the not-so-positive things that have happened!’
Flexibility is the ability to adapt to changes and the willingness to change or compromise.
Example> ‘Remote working offers us a great deal of flexibility, I can organise my days as I please and around all the other things I have to do! Some days I start earlier in the morning so that I can finish earlier in order to spend the afternoon with my kids when they get back from school! If I were working from the office like before I wouldn’t have this precious family time.’
Maintain regular hours
Maintaining regular hours means to not end up working extra hours, which is very easily done when working from home. Remote working can lead to the idea that we are always available and that working hours have no limits.
Example> ‘I’m really trying to maintain regular hours, I’ve set a starting time in the morning and finishing time in the evening and I stick to them! I also make sure I take a proper lunch break.’
Keep a dedicated workspace
Make sure you have a room or part of your house that is for working, create an environment to work well in. If possible try to keep your dedicated workspace separate from the rest of the house or living areas.
Listen & read!
Example>‘It’s hard to keep a dedicated workspace when living in a small flat in the city centre.’
Set Ground Rules (with people in your space / your team)
To set ground rules means to set basic principles on which future behaviour is based. Ground rules are really important, they can prevent future issues and incorrect behaviour.
Listen & read!
Example> ‘At the beginning of lockdown, I asked my team to each propose one ground rule for remote working.’
Scheduling breaks means to plan your breaks for the day in order to not get caught up in work and forget to take a breather or have some lunch.
Example> ‘I’ve scheduled 3 breaks during my working day, a 10 minute coffee break in the morning, one hour at lunchtime so that I have time to eat and maybe take a short walk, the another 10 minute break in the afternoon.’
Take advantage of your perks
To take advantage of your perks means to make the most of the benefits that you are given by your company.
Example> ‘A lot of my friends are taking advantage of their company perks during the pandemic. Some have been given food vouchers for grocery shopping while others have received extra money for child care.’
Thrive at work
To thrive at work means to prosper or flourish; to grow, develop or become successful.
Example> ‘I think it’s really hard to thrive at work at the moment, working from home. Plus companies struggling economically due to the pandemic are all reasons that climbing the career ladder at the moment seems like a distant dream.’
Let’s look at this business English vocab example from BBC Worklife
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4. Business English Vocabulary: how to discuss the challenges of working from home
'Always-on' work culture / Overworking
Always-on work culture means never really switching off from work and being constantly available. Overworking is very similar as it means to be working too much or more than you should be.
Example> ‘Smart working has led to a rise in always-on culture as it seems that we are always available through our electronic devices. We need to put our foot down and remember to switch off…in every sense!’
Bad health habits
Bad health habits are a negative behaviour pattern towards our health, so perhaps poor diet, little or no exercise or even bad sleeping patterns.
Example> ‘Many people who are now remote working have developed bad health habits, with gyms being closed and working from home, it’s easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy food can often provide comfort during moments of despair.’
Communication Issues and Being Out of the Loop
Communication issues are problems in communicating and perhaps misunderstanding communication.
Being/feeling out of the loop means to be unaware of some information about a particular matter. This can lead to feeling excluded.
Example> ‘Working from home has left many of us feeling out of the loop, finding out about a zoom call that we weren’t invited to has started to feel like when we didn’t get invited to a party as a teenager.’
Let’s look at this headline from The Independent
Difficulty to find work/life balance
To have blurred lines between personal/professional life
To feel/to be burned out
To feel or be burned out is when you are exhausted and demotivated especially with your job.
‘Around 6 months of smart working I was starting to feel burned out, I was so tired and lacked interest in anything I was doing.’
Check out this article from Forbes
Loneliness and lack of human interaction / to feel cut off/ closed off from the world / social isolation
- loneliness and lack of human interaction
- to feel cut off
- closed off from the world
- social isolation
These are all expressions that we use to express the idea of being socially isolated and lonely.
‘Last March at the start of the first lockdown I felt really cut off from the world, I left my house once a week just to go to the supermarket and after one month my mental health was crumbling.’
‘Social isolation is a great concern for us all at the moment and the more we are socially isolated the more difficult it will become to return to normality.’
Interruptions are when something or someone stops you from doing something for a short period of time.
Example> ‘Constant interruptions are standard since starting remote working and I find it really hard to get back on track’
Prioritising work is putting it in order of importance and deciding to do what is more important first.
Example> ‘I need to improve in prioritising work, I find it hard deciding what is more important/urgent at the time.’
Technology hiccups are when a problem for example with you computer or telephone causes a delay or interrupts something for a while.
Example>‘Sorry I’m late for the meeting but I had a technology hiccup, my laptop froze on me and I had to restart it.’
To steal a few minutes to do something
To steal a few minutes means to set aside or reserve a small amount of time to do something.
Example> ‘I managed to steal a few minutes for a catch up with an old friend that I hadn’t heard from for years.’
To stay on track
Staying on track means to stay focused on what you are doing and continue making progress as planned or expected.
Example> ‘Staying home during the pandemic has made it difficult to stay on track with exercise and healthy eating.’
To shut out the world
If you shut out the world it means to prevent the world from entering your personal space therefore your mind: you don’t allow what’s happening in the world into your mind and therefore not affect your state of mind, mood etc.
Example> ‘I found the only way to stay positive was to shut out the world so I stopped reading the news and catching up with people for a few weeks as the only thing everyone was talking about was the virus.’
We hope you’ve found this business English vocabulary lesson useful! It’s impossible to cover every word or expression that you may be hearing when it comes to home-working. This guide is intended to give you the essentials; to help you talk about remote working with a rich advanced English vocabulary.
If you have any questions about the vocabulary above or if you’ve come across any other words or expressions that you haven’t understood, leave us a comment below.
Lastly, please share with anyone you think may benefit from this article!
Stay well and stay safe!
2 thoughts on “Business English Vocabulary: 55 expressions you need to know”
Hey Elisa, well done! This is really useful, thanks! May
You’re very welcome May!