Workplace policies: when to limit and when to let go

Workplace policies provide structure and make expectations known. Managing policy means balancing limits with freedom to create a productive and cost-effective work environment.

Pedestrian traffic sign representing workplace policy

(Hat tip to Peter Bellis for the photo)

Your employees may not like all your workplace rules, but every workplace requires structure. How you manage those workplace policies is key, however, to determining how your employees perceive their workplace environment and how committed they are as a result.

Because of this, it’s important to know what kind of policies are right for your business. Where should you set limits and when do you let go?

What are the right limits for my business?

A good example is vacation policy because every company has to have one, but businesses worldwide have a range of vacation policies.

At one end of the spectrum you find businesses that offer the legal minimum, with restrictive minimum notice periods. At the other end are those that have set no limit on time off at any level, requiring their employees to take at least one week and offering bonus spending money for taking a destination vacation.

It depends on the nature of your business. A small office with work depending on incoming calls needs to make sure someone is there to pick up the phone. However, your business could experience big benefits by letting go of tight restrictions.

Managing limitations

Setting limitations is how you communicate your expectations and tells employees how much you trust and value them. But it’s not just setting limitations that speaks volumes, how you monitor them matters too.

It’s up to you to establish a management style that doesn’t make policy feel policed:

Hire a good crew in the first place. Create a competent team that you can trust. Good employees rarely take advantage of the system.

Be consistent. Your employees will notice your history of ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ If you make an exception to the rule, everyone will expect that exception.

Delegate responsibility. If you encourage collaboration and accountability between your employees, projects don’t become overdependent on a single person, projects get pushed along collectively and you see results rather than hours and days at the desk.

Adapt as necessary. Sometimes, you have no way of knowing if a policy will be effective until it is in effect and the results start manifesting. Other policies that have been in force for years may no longer be working. The key is to always be measuring, realise the need for change and be willing to adapt.

The case for leniency

It’s not just about more time off. The businesses putting these no-limit vacation policies in place are finding that the freedom creates a great work environment and gives employees the time away from work they need to focus better while at work.

The same principle can apply to other workplace policies as well. For a lot of companies, the ability for employees to go mobile changes how we measure results. People are measured on their output rather than time spent sitting in a particular space, meaning the priority switches to productivity rather than presenteeism.

Finally, the emerging workforce of millenials have come to expect flexibility. Flexible policies attract top talent into your business and help to retain the talent you already have by creating happy employees.

Managing freedom

You need top talent and happy employees to make your business run well, but you do still need some limits. So, how do you find the balance?

The cloud offers a way to monitor employees without constantly looking over their shoulder. For example, Turbine has a self-service HR feature. You can look at who is taking time off, when and why. You can monitor expenses from your desk.

It gives you peace of mind when you can monitor with the click of a button instead of emails, calls or meetings. Your employees will thank you for the freedom and you are sure to see the benefits.

Knowing how to set and enforce limits and keep a little leniency is one area where technology really can make life a lot easier.

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