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#sowhoknew: 6 stupid office rules that should be banned

Rules in the workplace. Without them we’d have anarchy right? Or would we? According to an article by Dr Travis Bradbury in the Huffington Post most companies fall into the trap of instigating several morale sapping rules for every employee based upon the inconsiderate actions of a small minority of transgressors. Hardly seems fair does it? So Dr Bradbury has outlined nine dumb directives and I have featured my top six…

1. Banning use of social platforms – Now I think we would all accept the need to restrict access to some of the more (shall we say) ‘unsavoury’ sites available on the internet but why do some companies insist upon stopping access to the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook and Tumblr? The commonly held belief is that social media stifles efficiency but there is a counter-argument that these platforms are incredibly useful tools in the work environment – for example scoping someones profile whilst checking them out as a potential employee or downloading an image for a presentation. And anyway, we are resourceful beasts and if our access is blocked at work we will inevitably utilise our trusty smartphones as the interface instead.

2. Totally inflexible working hours – In my recent article ‘Working 9 to 5 is no way to make a living’ I wrote about why Netflix and Virgin have dispensed with the traditional 9 to 5 working practice and introduced fully flexible working hours and vacations. As Sir Richard Branson puts it, “The focus should be on how much people get done rather than how much time they spend on it.”

So if that’s the case then why do some companies and/or bosses insist upon totally rigid working hours? Dr B talks about the injustice of being pilloried for turning up to work 5 minutes late despite the fact that you regularly work evenings, weekends and even on vacation. He goes on to say, “If you have employees who will fake a death to miss a day’s work, what does that say about your company?”

3. Excruciating e-mail policies – Now personally I’ve not come across this particular imposition but seemingly some companies are starting to introduce software that prevents employees sending emails unless it falls into a pre-approved list of topics. Travis and I agree that this is simply a matter of ‘trust’ – again I mentioned this in my 9 to 5 piece where I quoted senior analyst Sam Stern from Forrester Research on the matter, “If you trust and empower people and give them a chance to rise to the higher expectations, the vast majority of people are able to do it.”

To be honest, why would you even bother hiring someone if you don’t trust them especially for sending something as basic as an email?

4. Stopping the use of smartphones – A clear cut example of the original premise of this piece, where the inconsiderate actions of the few adversely affect the majority. Just because a few chatty Cathy’s and blabbering Bobs can’t stay off their phones for more than five minutes doesn’t mean that the rest of us should have to suffer.

But to be frank, we all have lives outside of the workplace and there is the occasional need to be in contact with the outside world either through a call or some kind of messaging. Whether it’s a poorly child or that the pesky dog has escaped from the back yard again, companies need to accept that life goes on beyond the working day and a diligent employee will always make up the time (and be incredibly grateful that you cut them some slack).

5. Draconian dress codes – who should decide what is appropriate to wear at work? Here is a concept, I say the individual should choose their attire. Again it’s simply matter of trust (and I suppose, to a certain extent, taste). I think I know what to wear for each occasion. I don’t see why wearing jeans and a t-shirt is an issue (although admittedly, as I work in the media industry I would concede that it’s maybe a little more accepting than say banking). I may not be the epitome of sartorial elegance but dressing down doesn’t make me any less productive. Actually I believe that because I’m more relaxed, it’s going to accelerate my productivity. The point is that we should embrace self-expression. Hmmm, well at least to an extent…

6. ‘One size fits all’ performance evaluations – Suffice to say we all excel at different things and have unique personality traits. So then why do so many companies assume we are all identical and evaluate their employees using a pre-determined set of criteria?

According to the HuffPo article, by incorrectly evaluating people’s performance it will just make employees feel like a ‘number’ and reinforce any insecurities they have about being fired for not having the attributes that they believe the company is seeking.

So there you have my top six but which annoying office ordinances do you despise?

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.