Corporate productivity depends on employee productivity, right? But what happens when workers are “scared straight” by backwards company policies?
That’s the premise of a recent guest post by our own Robby Slaughter on the CultureRx blog (reposted on Today’s Workplace.) The piece is titled “I’ll be fired instantly”—company policies and results. (Unfortunately that post has been removed from their website, but we saved some bits of it below.) He explains how a conversation at a business networking group about enjoying tunes at the office accidentally revealed a totally insane company policy:
“Why don’t we all do a weekly song share? We can each send out a piece of music we’re listening to at that moment. It will be a great way to motivate and support each other. In fact, we can just email a link to a music video on YouTube!”
Everyone loved the idea…All except the banker. She muttered, “Don’t include me. I can’t click on YouTube at work. I’ll be fired, instantly.“
Slaughter notes that for this particular individual, there could be any number of possible explanations for this story. It might not be a written policy, but just part of the company culture. In any case, he summarizes the key message:
Ultimately, no one should work for a company that has either a written policy or an established culture that explains what you cannot do. Work should be about working. It shouldn’t be about trying to identify all of the possible ways in which someone could be at their desk and not be working.
Here at AccelaWork, we’ve been talking about the irony of corporate productivity for years. For example:
- Facebook is not a workplace productivity killer – In fact, responsible people just use it to take breaks. Irresponsible people can waste time no matter what tools are available.
- The real small business productivity productivity thief is meetings. That’s right, if you want to destroy morale and create inefficiencies, demand people visit the conference room.
- Technology does not improve employee satisfaction or productivity. At least, not on it’s own. In fact, if you want corporate productivity to rise you need to focus on giving people more freedom.
Think about it. If a 10 minute YouTube video refreshes someone’s mind and allows them to be exponentially more productive over the next hour, is that really a waste of time? Is it any more of a waste of time than someone daydreaming for 10 minutes? Just because you can track YouTube and can’t track daydreaming doesn’t mean that either one of them is any better or worse. Unfortunately, too many companies have archaic policies about technology and don’t seek to think about what should happen beyond their first instinct.
This doesn’t only apply to technology issues. Anything that is traditional for the workplace shouldn’t be blindly accepted. It should be analyzed. If it’s actually a positive thing for your organization then keep it. If it doesn’t do anything really productive, then why do rules need to be carved into stone? Do employees really need to work from 9-5? Does a lunch break always have to be from 12-1? Absolutely not! There’s plenty of gray area on these issues, and that gray area is probably where the correct answer is going to be found.
But sadly that isn’t the way many companies think. It’s a safe bet that many reading this have been saddled with dancing around out of date rules and regulations within the workplace. In some situations these rules may make sense, but a majority of the time, they’re just the product of mindlessness. What do you think? Would you lose your job if you decided to take a break and watch a video? Is this financial institution treating employees like children?