WFH? 5 confusing workplace acronyms explained

Sophie Heatley · 07 Dec

We all love a good workplace hack to speed things up. But what happens when shortcuts become so… well, short, that they take longer to figure out than before? Here’s a breakdown of some workplace acronyms.

What is an acronym?

An acronym is a word formed as an abbreviation from the initial letters of several words. Acronyms aren’t words in the true sense. They’re more like short and snappy codes to speed up our communication.

A great example you may have heard of is NASA, which stands for The National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It sure is a mouthful, so you can see why acronyms can be useful.

Acronyms are a simple way of expressing an idea or instruction. You probably use them quite often without even realising. Acronym jobs, for example, are used all the time. CEO doesn't just mean CEO. CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer. Similarly, what does MD stand for? Managing Director. Wanna get more technical? In film you have your DOP, Director of Photography, or the CO, the Camera Operator. Interesting.

Acronyms for dummies

Fun facts

Every time you tell the time, for instance, you’re using an acronym. AM stands for Ante Meridiem, the Latin for before noon.

Even better, every time you send your colleague another cat GIF, I bet you don’t question what GIF actually stands for. GIF means Graphic Interchange Format. You’ll thank us for that at your next pub quiz.   

Better still! SPAM doesn’t just refer to your junk mail. Remember that peculiar tinned meat from back in the day? SPAM actually stands for Special Processed American Meat. Hmm… delicious.

How come everyone is suddenly using acronyms?

We are living in the most dynamic, digitised age yet. 2018 alone has seen a tremendous progression in technological and economic growth across the planet. With advances in production comes advances in demand; with increased demand comes increased workload.

What do acronyms have to do with modernising the workplace? Well, they may not seem like a big deal, but they’re really useful for keeping up with the pace of modernity. Nobody wants to spend more precious time on a task than absolutely necessary nowadays.

Acronyms offer quick and easy frameworks to direct employees. They may seem abrupt and impersonal, but they are focused. They’re a really handy management tool.

It’s a good idea to make a key of common workplace acronyms. No matter what you’re working on, it's good to have clear and concise guidelines and condensed instructions that enable us to get to the heart of a task within an instant.

Acronyms are punchy, precise, practical abbreviations which safeguard your time management, eliminate any riff-raff, and get straight to the point.

How to guide for acronyms

What’s the downside of using workplace acronyms?

One of the main downsides of workplace acronyms is that they can be terribly alienating. We’re not all experts in hieroglyphics – nobody wants to feel like they have to decode every other message they receive in their work inbox.

We don’t want any communication breakdowns, so for line managers, it’s important that you let your staff know the meaning of certain acronyms if you’re going to start firing them out.

Along the same lines, it’s not great for group dynamics in the office if it feels like half the employees are communicating in some kind of secret language that everyone else can’t understand. It starts to develop an unhealthy and unofficial hierarchy which isn’t good for company culture. Employee wellbeing should definitely come before fancy acronyms.

Do workplace acronyms seem more like mental acrobatics than practical time-savers?  If you need a push-start, here are a few examples and explanations to get you started.

Acronyms explained

5 workplace acronyms you should know

  1. WFH

Meaning: What does WFH mean? WFH means working from home. You’ll be hearing this one more and more as the number of remote and flexible working contracts continue to rise.

When should I use it?: To let the office know you will be working remotely. It’s useful for clients to know you won’t be working on site for practical reasons. Why waste time ringing the office when you’re not there?

2018 has seen a huge leap in employees WFH. If you can do your job outside of the office, why waste time on a stressful commute full of traffic, angry drivers, or sweaty trams and buses.

Flexible working hours are also becoming more popular – we’re progressively developing our awareness of how working life can impact our mental health, and how flexibility around working hours and working environments can be really influential on not just our phycological health, but our morale and engagement.

Are there any alternatives?: You may come across OOO (out of office) from time to time. This could also imply that you’re working remotely, but it’s definitely not as specific as WFH. OOO is more commonly used to let contacts know that you’re not available, rather than that you’re working off-site.

  1. OHIO

Meaning: OHIO means Only Handle It Once.

When should I use it?: When you need to get stuff done. This is such a great time saver. Managers could use this when there’s something they need a staff member to deal with quickly, rather than dedicating hours to.

This is especially useful for employees who potentially get so immersed in a task that they lose track of time. Being completely engaged in a task is great 99% of the time, but if you’re not paying attention to any other assignments, this is a sign you’re lacking in prioritisation skills.

Again, OHIO could also be useful when training staff to understand when, and when not, to spend more time on particular emails or on sorting through certain information. Some things need skimming over, some things need acute research and intelligent planning.

Are there any alternatives?: Not particularly. This one is pretty unique in meaning and should be used with caution – some things do need more than a single read through.

Acronyms made easy

  1. EOD or COB

Meaning: End of day or Close of Business.

When should I use it?: This is so important – if you receive an email asking you to get something done by EOD and you have no idea that means before home time, you could be responsible for some pretty hefty delays.

Are there any alternatives?: You can also use EOW for End of week, if your deadline isn’t as imminent.

Alternatively, maybe there’s no rush at all. TYT means Take your time. How polite. A personal favourite.

  1. TLDR

Meaning: This is kind of harsh but super useful for over-excited wordsmiths. TLDR literally stands for Too Long, Didn’t Read.

When should I use it?: Use when someone has sent you something ridiculously convoluted or unnecessarily long, and you simply don’t have the time to pick out the most important bits.

TLDR is a great acronym to use when you feel like you’re already dealing with enough work and need a bit of extra help. The sender should get the message: they need to either summarise the script they’ve sent you or go back to the drawing board. This acronym is great for editors.

Are there any alternatives?: EOT is also super useful when it comes to sorting through emails. Ever received a thread of emails so long you grow another grey hair? Overly long email threads properly fund most of the hair dye industry. EOT means End of Thread. This is really helpful to clarify that everything has been properly forwarded onto you, especially when dealing with long discussions that can span a couple of weeks.

Likewise, NRN (no reply necessary) is also useful for those who maybe get a little trigger happy with their keyboard. While it’s nice to respond to most emails so the sender is aware the recipient has been, indeed, the recipient, sometimes you’re wasting your energy by responding to something that simply doesn’t need a response.

People who don’t understand NRN are often the culprits of overly long email threads.

Workplace Acronyms for managers

  1. WIIFM

Meaning: WIIFM means What’s in it for me? Straight to the point. This isn’t selfish. This is about hitting your business bullseye rather than point arrows at unrewarding targets.

When should I use it?: When you’re in the process of making a deal with someone and you need to know exactly what you or your business will get out of it. Or, maybe, William just asked you to get him a coffee and you want to know what you’ll get in return.

Are there any alternatives?: Some people argue this isn’t the right question to ask in business. Rather, you might want to use WDTC which means Why do they care? WDTC is much more audience/client based. This acronym transcends the self-interest of WIIFM and is directed at the needs and desires of the clientele instead.

Okay, go on then. Here’s a bonus one for good measure!

  1. KISS

Meaning: Keep it simple, stupid. Ouch. But, you have a point.

When should I use it?: Sometimes we need to keep things simple. Often the most ground-breaking campaigns are the ones that don’t overcomplicate, but rather, in the nicest way possible, dumb things down.

Look at M&C Saatchi, for example, one of the most successful creative advertisement agencies on the planet. What’s their core principal? Brutal simplicity. Yep. Simple ideas enter the brain quicker and stay their longer. It really is that simple.

We’re living in such a fast-paced world now that people simply don’t have time to spend ages breaking down what a particular advertisement or business idea means. If we had unlimited time, things would be different. Mostly, though, we need things sorted now or ASAP (as soon as possible).

It may seem rudimentary, but often simplifying things back to the basics could be the solution to overcoming challenging flaws in your business campaign.

Are there any alternatives?: If you wanted to be less brutal – let’s be honest, stupid isn’t the friendliest of adjectives to go by – you could simply use BID. What does BID mean? It means Break it down. In other words, simplify x, y or z subject; shorten your argument to strengthen it.  

email and file acronyms

So, what’s the real P&L (Profit and loss) of using workplace acronyms?

There are so many awesome acronyms that you could be using to get your job done on time with efficiency. Whether they’re to imply you’re going OT (off topic) or can’t respond because you’re OTP (on the phone), there are tonnes of abbreviations you could use.

FWIW (for what it’s worth), if you’re not sure what these new acronyms that are buzzing around the office are, next time you receive one of these little code words, BID (break it down) and do your research. IMO (in my opinion), once you’ve demystified such office jargon, you can help to speed up and simplify workplace communication.

If you're still unsure about all this acronym jargon, try investing in an acronym finder. It might make the difference! 

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