What’s the value of workplace rules? In a recent TalentCulture article Meghan Biro argues that they can become a secret productivity and employee engagement killer; that “if a company imposes too many rules, employees often feel stifled – and even undervalued”. Biro identifies a number of factors that have, for some time now, been transforming the modern day workplace. These include flexible working hours, the use of personal computers, and distance working. Such changes, as Biro points out, are increasing the need for workplace regulations that facilitate creativity and collaboration.
Reduce Rules, Increase Employee Engagement
“Employees feel engaged when you put their opinions, talents, and ideas to real use,” explains Biro. Indeed, recent years have seen an increase in the number of companies opening up communication in order to involve all employees in idea generation and co-creation initiatives. What’s certain is that such a culture cannot flourish in workplaces that are bogged down in restrictive rules and regulations.
Teleworking trends are a good way of illustrating this. The number of distance workers is on the rise; the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 23% of employees did at least part of their work remotely in 2015 up from 19% in 2013. Many companies having to change existing rules in order to accommodate those employees who wish, or need, to work from distance. They also face the challenge of implementing a workplace culture that makes it easy for individuals to stay updated remotely. Just as they would, should they be working at company headquarters. More often than not, this means rethinking how information is shared and incorporating internal communication technology that drives awareness and collaboration across locations.
Fewer Regulations Mean Increased Employee Fulfilment
An overabundance of rules, says Biro, can make a workplace “less fun and fulfilling”. Employees who are in a position to share ideas, who are encouraged to put forward opinions, and who have a fun way of communicating internally about daily office life, are generally happier and more engaged with their employer. The crux of the matter is fostering a sense of value; sending the message that employees’ work, and their relationship with the company, is not just about the responsibilities listed in their job description.
This, in turn, means embracing a style of communication that allows senior expertise to filter down throughout the organization. This enables individual insights to transcend hierarchies, often bubbling their way all the way up to the very top. Of course, this goes against many traditional communication models. These – through either written or unwritten rules – create barriers between departments and levels of seniority. Writing for Fortune, Ed Frauenheim and Kim Peters state that leading companies “put real work into sustaining environments where people can count on candor, respect and the esprit de corps necessary for the open, fruitful exchange of ideas”.
Moving Away from Rule-Driven Cultures: Some Good Examples
We have written about the changing workplace, and what it means for employee engagement. We have also drawn attention to changing workplace practices at leading organizations. At The Huffington Post, the prioritization of employee wellness has led to increased engagement and productivity. At ExterionMedia, the introduction of a dedicated communication and collaboration platform focused on user-generated content has multiplied the level of idea generation by five. Both are companies that value their employees, and that recognize their importance to the development of the organization.