When it comes to a harmonious office, policies are usually the best way to get everyone on the same track. They are simple guidelines that let people know what is expected in certain situations. It is good for everyone to be on the same page. You’re looking to keep your staff productive, motivated, and create an atmosphere that nurtures respect and work ethic. It sounds like a big ask, but really a few simple steps will get you what you are looking for.
Before you start pinning the policies to the wall, spend some time to talk about them first. If you have stakeholders, investors, partners, then they will need to be consulted. Health and safety bodies will also need to be called in to make sure that you are within the law and use their guidance to get the policies right - and make sure you have the ones that are legally required of you.
Your employees will also be ideal to speak to. They know the work that they do, the break times, and navigate the people in the office on a daily basis. Everyone in the office will need to have a say about what they would like to see built into the policies, and everyone should understand why they need to be put in place too.
Keeping the conversation open for everyone to have their say will give a better overview of what is really needed and what is excessive or unnecessary.
Not every business will need the same policies and procedures. Some offices will deal with highly sensitive information, others won’t. Such things like a mobile phone policy will differ from place to place. For mobile phone policy templates, you can check out https://getsling.com/blog/cell-phone-policy-at-work/. You can find plenty of policies that will work from general guides and other sources - but they will still need to be tailored to your business before they will truly make any impact.
Adapt what will work, ditch what won’t.
All of your policies should be short and to the point. The longer and more jargon-filled they are, the less likely people will read them or adhere to them. The language should be as plain as possible. You are looking to create an auditable standard in your policies. This means you will have clear benchmarks and can gauge how you are doing overall in implementation and adhering to the guides.
The language matters. So if you say ‘dispose of sensitive materials’ there is the question of how they should be disposed of, how often and where. So, instead write ‘dispose of sensitive information every Friday, use a paper shredder for hardcopies and delete digital copies from your hard drive.’
The policies have to be manageable. If you don’t have time, people or resources to make sure that the policies are implemented - it is a lot of time wasted. Adopting policies that are best practice but then not having the tools to uphold the policies just isn’t going to work.
If you have spoken to the staff and people who are financially involved in the business, there should be no policies that won’t work, or that you cannot put into action.
Once you have everything written up, and you feel that the policies match all of the discussions that you had, it is time to make them known.
Producing a single manual for each employee, plus some spares in the office will mean that you have done your due diligence in ensuring everyone is up to date. If you have an office network, it is helpful to put a digital copy on there for ease of access too.
It is now your duty to make sure that all employees receive training that pertains the guidance in the policies. New staff will be given training and a manual, but for staff that has been around a while, you might need to offer a few sessions. Old habits are harder to break, so it might take longer to get people all on the same page.
You can hire outside training teams to put together workshops, team meetings, and conversations that will help see your policies upheld and fully understood.
Unfortunately, it is not likely that you are going to be able to hand out a manual and see things change. Once you have given the manual, send a follow-up email asking people to ensure they read it. After that, have a range of face-to-face meetings where you can get them to sign that they understand the importance of policies and are going to comply with them. This means that if anything happens within the office environment between members of staff, you have it in writing that they knew those actions were against policy.
A member of staff, or perhaps someone hired in should be in control of the upholding and adherence of your policies and procedures. Although it is everyone's duty to make sure that they are sticking to the rules, a single body to report to or talk to is ideal.
There should be guidelines and procedures for dealing with issues that have broken the policies in the workplace too. And, there should be little to no exceptions when they are broken. Deliberate breaches of policy should be treated seriously - these will be the ones that are obviously wrong, not just a requirement of the office.
Leading by example, is essential here. The management and owners should always be seen to adhere to the policies that they have put in place.
It is vital to note that is managers are seen to let certain behaviors slide, that if a dispute happens, it may be said that the action taken against X employee is unfair when the manager allows Y get away with the same thing.
The actions typically associated with breaching policies are:
There are likely policies that if broken, should be instant dismissal and will be noted as such in your manual.
Your staff turnover, new government policies, new health, and safety policies will all have an impact on how long you can have policies for. They will need to be reviewed and changed accordingly. Even if your office simply orders a new printer, coffee machine, and shredder. Those items will need to be written into the policy to protect staff and your assets.
Ideally, you will review your policies at least every 2 years, and provide the necessary training for your staff at this time too. If you have an office manager, or a document automation system, then make sure that a review is scheduled.
Once the updates have been made, getting staff to sign off on agreement and compliance is a must, as well as reissuing any materials that you had produced previously.
Once you have spent the time to develop and implement the policies, they should be enforced and acknowledged all the time. Make sure that you consistently are seen to follow up all complaints, that you are compliant and that you are seen to discipline and breaches within the policies that you have laid out.
Always remember that the more straightforward and common sense the policies are, the more likely your workforce is going to be able to follow them without worry. There should always be policies that touch on homophobia, sexism, racism, and other serious misconducts that would fall into the same remit.