There was a time where I attended a seminar which discussed the ins and outs of opening a new business. There were a lot of talks which ranged from the finances up to hiring the best starting employees. However, there was one topic in which the speaker regarded as the “dark horse” in the business process. She called it the dark horse since it’s not always the priority of the company, but when companies disregard this process, it might be a significant force behind their downfall. The topic of workplace standards and guidelines was that dark horse.
Workplace standards and guidelines are essential in establishing a company. This collection of statements and write-ups reflects the organization’s cultures and values and its expectations from the performance and behavior of their employees.
Because it is essential to implement these kinds of policies in every office, I decided to compile everything that I have learned from the seminar and come up with this ultimate guide. Check it out!
Workplace standards and guidelines often include a reinforcement of the standard operating procedures, also called SOPs, in the workplace. These are written policies which aim to be the primary information book of the employees so that they will be aware of the proper behavior and work technicalities in the office.
A clear-cut and compelling guideline should include the following:
- The goal of the policy
- An explanation behind the drafting of the protocol (this may consist of statistics and numbers to back up your reasoning)
- The people whom the guideline calls to attention
- A list of acceptable and unacceptable behavior with regards to the context of the standard
- The consequence of not complying with the rules
- The date of implementation
- Signatories of the proponents of the guidelines (this may include either the top management or employees from the human resources)
Remember to avoid jargons and write everything in simple terms. This way, your message will be understandable to everyone. There is also no required length when drafting this. What you should keep in mind is to create a standard which will be as detailed as possible.
Usually, businesses give their policy manual or company handbook during the orientation of a new hire. The topics in this compilation usually range from safety guidelines to office discrimination to late and absence policies. It is the employer’s responsibility that this manual is given to the new hire to avoid a disruption in the flow of the operations.
To give a brief illustration, let us consider a telemarketing firm. A telemarketing firm addresses the concerns of consumers. It requires them to talk to different kinds of individuals on a regular basis. With that, it is essential to provide a policy manual which may cover the permitted and prohibited words and statements on a sales call. Without this guideline, companies would not be able to have a basis on their operations which might cost them their credibility and brand proposition.
Every company and business, no matter which industry or sector your operation is in, should have comprehensive and well-documented standards and guidelines to bring guidance to every employee and manager in the office.
Big or small, every company benefits from having clear and well-implemented standards and guidelines. Here are some of the advantages of bringing these kinds of policies in the workplace:
1. Every protocol and direction is a testament to the company culture you want to establish in the office. Hence, with your workers knowing what picture you want to paint, it will be easier to achieve the values and culture you aim to have.
2. Having this set of rules will bring stability to your company. Since your employees are aware of the do’s and don’ts in the workplace, they will most likely think twice and think about the consequences of their every action.
3. This move will also ensure the consistency and uniformity when it comes to the operational procedures and decision-making of the company. At the same time, this will also speed up and save time whenever new problems arise.
4. Every kind of business also changes in the middle of their operations. By having these standards and guidelines, it will help the company maintain the direction of the organization despite these periods of change.
5. The standard way of operation will demonstrate that the business is operating in an efficient, effective, and businesslike manner. Showing this kind of image for internal workers and external partners will improve the image of the company. Once you gain the respect of your colleagues, profit and sustainability will follow.
6. The standards and guidelines will also provide more clarity on the functions, responsibilities, and job descriptions of the employees. These will avoid overlapping and redundancy in the operations of any kind.
Every human resource department has its way of drafting its workplace policies. However, it is crucial to be aware of the different types of standards and guidelines which it can implement. This way, the execution of the initiative will be smooth-flowing as possible.
Most countries have laws which require businesses to develop a safety policy if they have five or more employees under their care. The purpose of drafting this kind of protocol is for the employer to express their commitment to their workers' health and safety.
So, what should companies include in the safety guidelines?
- A clear commitment from the management that the safety of the workers will be its number one priority. It should also include how these precautions can be applied and integrated with their daily work activities.
- A statement which shows the awareness of the employers the current status of the workplace. Hence, they are responsible for creating reasonable precautions to avoid injury or illness of any kind.
- They should assure the workers that they will be spearheading regular training for the workers to supply them with the knowledge of safe work practices.
- The signatories of the policy should include the top management to show the employees that the whole company supports this policy and will implement it in every level of the organization.
It is normal that there will be regular changes and updates in the workplace. Hence, this safety policy guideline should be updated consistently. Most companies go with a twice a month review and editing of the safety rules.
Many companies usually release guidelines on how employees should dress. They have the right to determine what kind of outfit is acceptable or not. However, these dress codes vary from one type of business to another.
For example, professional services firms such as consulting firms, fast-moving consumer goods companies, and law firms prefer formal business attires during workdays. On the other hand, jobs which are in the field are more inclined towards jeans and polo shirts. Some offices even issue work uniforms.
A number of people might also be unaware that there are dress codes which are custom-related. It means that some workers have their required attires depending on their ranking or position in the company. Examples of these are executive chefs who might prefer their own traditional “toque blanche.” It symbolizes their high-rank in the kitchen position.
This policy is probably one of the most important guidelines that should be polished by the management. In most organizations, the time in and time out of the employees are strictly recorded using a time clock or automated check-in procedures of any kind. This practice is to make sure that their employees follow their required number of hours per day.
Some types of business, such as professional services firms (e.g. law firms), require their workers to record both their billable and non-billable hours. It ensures that they receive fair pay in the times that they are out in the field and the office.
Attendance monitoring and timekeeping are crucial for workplaces where some employees are nonexempt. Nonexempt refers to those the Fair Labor Standards Act does not cover on overtime pay. Compared to regular employees, who are paid using a fixed salary regardless of how long they work per day, nonexempt workers are those who are only paid depending on the number of hours they are working.
Employees who are trying to make both ends meet usually rely on additional income in overtime. Hence, most of them extend their work hours for this.
Most overtime pay requires to pay nonexempt employees in excess of the required 40 hours per week requirement. In addition, the overtime rate should also be 150 percent of the regular fee of the employee.
The problem with this rule is that a lot of people are confused with what constitutes a workweek. Most individuals think that a workweek starts at 7 a.m. on Mondays and ends on the night of Fridays. However, this is not the same for every business which has overtime pay.
The law defines a workweek is any seven consecutive 24-hour period which may start at any time slot throughout the day. For example, Charles is a full-time hairstylist in a salon. He works from Wednesdays to Sundays beginning at 11 a.m. until 7 pm. He has work offs every Monday and Tuesday. With this, we can say that Charles’ workweek begins at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and ends at 10:59 a.m. next Wednesday.
When drafting this policy, there are several things to consider. Every employer should make sure to accomplish the following:
- Determine which types of jobs and which workers require the overtime pay system. Take note that there are several jobs which will not make sense if you add them here.
- Come up with the overtime pay method calculation. It may vary from company to company. Businesses may opt not to go for the 150 percent computation but instead use another kind of method. Remember, however, that the 150 percent method is the minimum standard, and other overtime methods should not go down this minimum amount.
- Make a system which accurately tracks the work hours of the employees. Some companies use biometrics, through fingerprint recognition, to avoid mishap of any kind on the attendance and time monitoring. This kind of approach is better than just the pen-and-paper strategy, where workers are required to write their time-ins and time-outs since the biometrics system is secured and tamper-proof.
Although there are laws and legislation which give the employees to different kinds of workplace leaves, it is still helpful to have rules on how to manage these leaves. An employer which is drafting these policies on leaves should consider the following:
- Types of leaves offered by the company
- A statement whether the leave is paid or unpaid
- Step-by-step procedure for applying these leaves
- Specific forms needing accomplishment
- Names of the authorities which are the required signatories
One example of a unique kind of leave is that of Google’s. It is pretty standard for a business to allow new mothers to take some time off from work on an average of six weeks. What’s unique about Google’s leave policy is that new dads also receive six weeks of paid leave while mothers may opt to stay at home up to 4 months or 18 weeks (yes, they are payable as well!).
"The Goog even gives us a bonus, called 'baby bonding bucks' shortly after our baby is born to help with expenses like diapers, takeout, and formula during our leave,” says a long-time employee of Google.
Having an email and Internet policy is essential for a company to ensure the standardized approach of dealing with external partners and making sure that everyone is aware of what “offensive” and “inappropriate” content is.
Emails which are work-related are not considered to be personal property. It is not something that someone can keep inside a desk drawer or locker where people are not allowed to snoop around and touch things. The company has the right to check the emails which are sent by the staff as a precaution against security breach, fraud, or workplace harassment by the employees.
It should also be understandable to the workers that the Internet access provided by the company is within limits and they are not allowed to do the following:
- Send emails which are threatening, harassing, obscene, and offensive in nature.
- Create advertisements and solicitation letters using company email.
- Store information that are violating the copyright laws. It includes downloading or uploading movies, games, and commercial software.
- View websites containing and criminal and objectionable content. An example of this is pornography.
Companies usually provide the best equipment and technologies to their workers so that they can perform as efficiently and effectively as possible. These kinds of tools may take many forms: laptops, coffee makers, power plant machinery, cars, mobile phones, and desk lamps, to a name a few. It is essential the employees find the value in these items since acquiring these may cost them a lot of money.
With all of these in mind, it is critical for the employers to have rules on the proper use and consequences regarding damages on office properties. This kind of regulation is acceptable since these items remain as a property of the employer.
Listed below are some of the things to consider when drafting this policy:
- Employers must make sure that there will be a thorough investigation regarding the damage on a particular item. It may be through a tribunal or consultation with work colleagues.
- The company should create a contract which will cover the conditions just in case of these damages.
- The rule should also include that the employers cannot directly deduct from the worker’s monthly pay to cover the cost of damage without having a legally signed agreement which allows them to do so.
Those employees who are in the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both may pose a severe threat to their co-workers' safety and welfare. They may injure themselves or other people.
Aside from the outside threats, alcohol and drugs may also damage both the mental and physical health of that employee. It might result in high absenteeism and lateness, low efficiency and productivity, disputes within the workplace, and damage to the properties of the office.
Because of the mentioned consequences on the use of these addicting tools, it is essential to release measures which will restrict the presence of both alcohol and drugs in the workplace. There should also be regular awareness programs and training sessions which will serve as preventive measures. Lastly, it is also crucial to come up with rehabilitation programs and treatments to the employees undergoing the addiction problem.
Management has the right to assign areas which are smoke-free and those that are not. This way, the employer can be of help in providing a safe and healthy work environment for its workers.
Employers sometimes miss setting guidelines on the frequency of smoke breaks. The sad thing with this is that employees use this as a common excuse to avoid their work and take excessive breaks. Hence, it is essential to state in the policy on the designated times (morning, lunch breaks, and afternoon tea) it is acceptable to smoke.
Some points to consider when creating this policy are the following:
- Study and research on the specific areas on where the employees are affected by people smoking.
- Determine the place with good circulation which can serve as the designated place to smoke.
- Get the demographics of smokers and non-smokers in the company.
- Study the behavior of the said smokers to be able to come up with the best time slots on smoking time.
Believe it or not, some kinds of discrimination and harassment happen in the workplace. Some people find themselves uninspired since some people do not give them proper work treatment just because of their gender, race, nationality, and religion. Because of this recurring problem in the office, there should be a detailed guideline on how to deal with these kinds of harassments and discrimination.
Employers should ensure that employees are safe from this kind of workplace bullying at all stages of employment. It includes the following:
- Recruitment, including the moment the job advertisements are up and how one-on-one and group interviews go (be it online, phone, or physical);
- Being offered and presented with unfair terms and conditions of employment;
- Being denied of any job opportunity - from attending training and seminars, increasing performance pay, or being offered with transfers and promotions; and
- Being unfairly demoted or dismissed.
The presence of these workplace standards and guidelines is not enough. They should be properly drafted and implemented to be able to produce the best outcome. Here are some things that you should scrutinize when developing these:
While it is essential for a set of policies to govern every company, the employers should still study and choose which work rules are reasonable and appropriate for your work setting. If you are not sure which guidelines to implement, you can start by answering these seven simple questions:
1. Is there enough proof and justification to implement this policy?
2. Will this policy be for the good of the majority or just for a particular group of people?
3. In which situations would these guidelines be used?
4. Will the effort and time in enforcing this policy outweigh the benefits which will result from the implementation?
5. Who will keep track and monitor these rules?
6. Do other companies have a similar regulation? Is it useful in their case? Which aspects can I get from them to better improve the current system that we have now?
7. What would be the consequences for those who break these rules?
Once you have the answers to all of these questions, reflect on whether your selected standards and guidelines are still proper to implement.
For example, if your business requires juggling some sensitive information and trade secrets, it is necessary for you to go for a non-compete or non-disclosure policy. This way, all of the critical information will only stay within the four corners of your workplace.
In addition, if the nature of your business does not require any direct contact with the customers and the public, it may be inappropriate to establish a restrictive dress code policy.
It is not enough that the ones involved in this process are only those in the top management. Yes, senior management is responsible for the modeling of the guidelines, the modification of the policy, and the endorsement of the standards. However, it is also crucial to get the opinion of the employees.
Involving the workers in the design process will promote stronger awareness and ownership of the drafted rules. They can even give you additional input on whether these rules are apt for them. Lastly, if they know that they had a say on the standards and guidelines of the company, there is a significant chance that they will follow and abide by these rules without hesitation.
When we mean is to be as specific as possible, it means to define the terms of the policy clearly. You can even add some examples to illustrate what you are trying to say.
Unclear Rule: An employee under the influence of alcohol will not be allowed to enter the premises of the building.
Clear Rule: An employee will not be allowed to enter the premises of the building if he or she exceeds the 0.05 percent blood alcohol level (0.02 percent for company drivers).
As illustrated above, it is difficult to define what “an employee under the influence of alcohol” is. Does it refer to people who have consumed a minimum of one glass of liquor or those who are already puking their eyes out? The second statement ensured that there is a measurable standard to be observed, so it is easier to determine which employees are accountable.
Being specific also means containing additional information aside from the policy itself. It may include whom the policy applies to, what the standards of operations are, or the adjudication process in case someone violated the policy.
Unclear Rule: Security breach in the company is prohibited.
Clear Rules: Security breach in the company is prohibited. Those who have been proven to have violated this will be grounds for disciplinary action or even termination of employment.
To be as useful as possible, standards and guidelines should be public to both existing and new employees. It also includes those who are on leaves, career breaks, out-of-town trips, and part-time employees.
Policies should be in any language which can be understood by all workers. In most cases, English is the default language. If there are many nationalities which reside in your company, you can also translate the writings into different mediums to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Informing the workers can be implemented in several ways, this being the following:
- Small and large staff meetings
- Information or training sessions
- Email alerts
- Putting of posters in common areas
- Handing out manuals
These initiatives will help your cause.
As mentioned previously, it is essential to review and evaluate the current policies of the company to ensure that they are still in line within the status of the organization. The evaluation process should also include the feedback of the employees, the statistics of the policy, and some recommendations on the points of improvement. This way, it will be easier to pinpoint which ones to amend.
Whenever there are changes in a particular policy, no matter how minute it is, make sure to still publicize and promote it in the office. Doing this will help them understand the new directions of the organization.
Having workplace standards and guidelines are essential for every business and company. However, to make everything more acceptable to them, make sure that these policies are not perceived negatively. Always make your employees understand the rationale behind every rule and always involve them in the process. Doing these will bring success in the implementation of these workplace standards and guidelines.
Are there some workplace standards which are not written down but are still acceptable?
Yes, there are still some companies who have established their unwritten guidelines as part of the company custom and practice. Despite it being acceptable in some companies, it is always recommended to record it in writing so that there is a basis whenever misunderstandings and issues arise. Doing this can also help in the legalities of your company’s rules and regulations.
Do companies have to require their employees to read the whole document for all of their standards and guidelines?
You don’t have to obligate them to learn EVERYTHING. However, it is better if they do so. Some companies even do weekly 10-minute discussions and meetings to present a particular policy. This strategy can be helpful in raising awareness to your employees without going down the arduous process of reading a 100-page document.
How would the company ensure that the employees won’t take these standards and guidelines negatively?
Avoiding opposing reactions from the workforce boils down to three steps. First, these policies should not infringe on employee rights of any kind. Second, the protocols should be backed up by reliable data. It means that all the statistics or qualitative support statements should be as detailed as possible so they will know the rationale behind the implementation. Lastly, the company should always ask for feedback from the employees from time-to-time. Doing this will make them feel that you value them.
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