Employers establish the tone of a workplace.
Clear and consistent policies lead to efficient workflows and a happy workforce. But workplaces with lax or nonexistent policies quickly lapse into chaos. In some cases, they can even become hostile work environments that are ripe for employment-based litigation.
The key to an orderly workplace is the implementation of standards for on-the-job behavior. General work rules create parameters for employee behavior and describe the consequences that will occur when workers violate company policies.
Mutual respect should be the overarching theme of the general work rules and labor policies you institute in your business. Some rules are a matter of personal preference; others are mandated by federal and state laws. Most small business owners find it helpful to include general work rules that address the following workplace issues.
- Drugs & alcohol use. Drugs and alcohol have no place in a business workplace. Work standards should reference the strict enforcement of the drug and alcohol policy that is documented in your company's Employee Handbook.
- Theft & fraud. Theft and fraud are obviously unacceptable workplace behaviors. But the trick is defining the activities that are considered theft or fraud in your business. The use of office supplies, expense accounts and conducting personal business on company time are all issues that work rules and company standards should address.
- Accountability chain. Employees need to be encouraged to follow your company's established chain of command. Updated organizational charts and grievance procedures reinforce accountability chains and proper reporting processes. When an employee ignores the chain of command, supervisors should be instructed to re-establish proper reporting and accountability protocols.
- Health & safety. Health and safety concerns are a major workplace issue. In addition to OSHA regulations, your general work rules must emphasize the importance of workplace safety and encourage employees to follow healthy work procedures – on the shop floor and in the front office.
- Technology. Modern technology brings many benefits to the small business workplace. But it has also created some challenges that need to be addressed in your general work rules and workplace policies. Allowable uses of technology should be clearly described and special attention given to things like online activities, email, social networking sites and mobile phone usage.