Rules provide structure and guidance for employers and employees alike. Unlimited vacation days, a month of paternity leave, and space to work on your physical and mental well-being. It may sound like a utopia, but in some companies, these conditions are simply stated in the collective labor agreement. Employees were allowed to join the negotiations themselves to talk about their happiness at work.
Rules are like frameworks through which we know what we can and are allowed to do. But at the same time, rules can also cause confusion and annoyance or limit us in our actions.
Especially if they get in the way of work they are quite annoying. When do rules hinder employees’ happiness at work? And how do you get from regulatory pressure to happiness at work?
The general consensus seems to be that the fewer the rules, the happier the employees. Also check out my last paragraphs about affiliate marketing: your perfect way to make money on the side.
Too many or too few rules
Unnecessary rules have a direct negative effect on happiness at work. This includes office creation and administration. A recently published white paper by members in healthcare even states that unnecessary registrations have a negative impact on the health of healthcare workers. Absenteeism and turnover rates increase when employees spend more time following procedures and administration than the work they initially chose.
Because people choose a job, especially in the public sector, often because of the ‘purpose’ and not because of the administration. On the other hand, too few rules do also not always work. Do people really get happy from having complete self-direction? From working without frameworks, without supervision, and full personal responsibility?
To a certain extent certainly, because having autonomy is really one of the conditions for more happiness at work. However, autonomy must give the employee the feeling that he/she can make the right decisions. Because autonomy can only exist if the employee can experience complete freedom of thought and action within mutually agreed preconditions.
So what does work?
It is difficult to have an unambiguous rule of thumb with what works and what doesn’t. While one employee likes to have more rules and feels safe with them, this works the opposite for another employee. What is the same for everyone is the need for frameworks, transparency, and having a dot on the horizon.
Knowing where you are working towards and within what preconditions. Where one employee takes the autonomy within that to do his or her job, the other employee can enter into a conversation with the manager to gain more guidance.
Unnecessary rules, on the other hand, don’t work for anyone. It prevents employees from taking autonomy and doing the work they have chosen. Within some companies, they see rules as one of the facets that are necessary to create an environment in which desired behavior is central. They try to be very clear and show what our dot on the horizon is, what the ultimate goal is that we want to determine as an organization.
Together they determine the frameworks and then employees have the autonomy to make their own choices within this organization that is necessary for their work. Managers have a facilitating role and help employees and the organization to continuously recalibrate the frameworks to the actual situation so that autonomy can continue to exist.
A great deal can be made within the public sector by ‘disrupting’. By making a switch from implementing existing rules and procedures to forming frameworks within which autonomy can exist.
During the collective labor agreement negotiations, employees were able to make their voices heard. Time and development, in particular, were mentioned as important themes.
But happiness at work varies from person to person. One person needs extra care leave or an extra day off before Ramadan. The other wants to retrain or do volunteer work. It is important that leads and teams are in discussion with each other about this.
Nowadays, employees would like to be able to organize their own time. To occasionally work from home, for example, or to develop their craftsmanship. But also to be able to take leave during holidays. In addition to the fixed vacation days, you could have 1.5 days of ‘extra’ leave to take. These are often used for public holidays on which we are not normally free in some countries. With the Sugar Fest, Idul Fitr for example, or with Carnival.
Always on vacation?
Another company is also experimenting with unlimited vacation days. The idea: employees have full control over their (working) time, including when and for how long they go on vacation. Should employers not be afraid that everyone will fly to Ibiza every other month to recover? That will show eventually. It is important that we keep an eye on each other as colleagues, and that the need for moments of rest can be discussed. They have every confidence that the teams will come out of this.
Having such a conversation about someone’s needs should be the norm. But it doesn’t happen everywhere, so we could be proud that it really does happen in companies. We should think that’s very humane. But having control over one’s own time also entails responsibilities for the employee. This is a very important issue. We would like to make our colleagues responsible for what they need. If that is more time for vacation, then that should be possible.
Think of it as a kind of menu, from which you can choose what you want. This can also differ per life stage, or per type of work you do. IT people, for example, find development and innovation very important. We, therefore, offer colleagues the opportunity to continuously learn, stay relevant, and increase their labor market value during their time at our company.
With us, they can work on an app that more than 4 million people use. If you come up with something innovative for that and you can present it in Shanghai or Silicon Valley – that is attractive, they appreciate that. But they too might as well have a sick grandmother to care for. Then paid informal care leave comes into the picture again.
Fewer rules, more principles
What do all these measures have in common? Actually, it comes down to fewer rules and more principles. That leads to higher well-being, and happy colleagues simply perform better. Just like employees who can and may continue to invest in themselves. This is possible through professional training, but also through personal development.
For example, our company offers a personal purpose program. Because: the stronger you become as a person, the more efficient you are at work and the better your labor market value is.
Health also plays a role in this. In the context of wellbeing, for example, we also invest a lot in sports and health, and the stimulation thereof. For example, with pedometers, a bicycle plan, and fruit everywhere in the office. But the most important principle is: how you make someone happy differs per person. That is why they think it is so important that rules are not boarded up, but that there are only guidelines and we discuss them with each other.
Make your own rules
As can be seen above, some companies do adapt a strategy for rules and how to present them. If you are fortunate to be working for them, then you will generally be ok. But what if you have a job that is very limited to its rules and nothing on the horizon to improve the situation?
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4 thoughts on “The fewer rules at Work, the happier Employees are”
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I agree with you that principles are more important than regulations within a workplace.
If everyone is simply told what to do, they will be more likely to resist the attempts at direction.
However, establishing a set of guidelines and goals for the company as a whole can be great if there is a system in place through HR to help employees align their own goals with that of the company. In the end, you will have workers that understand their role and have determined the path to take in order to achieve them and possibly even improve themselves in the process!
Guidelines and goals are a way of structuring the workplace without disturbing the workflow and employees’ state of mind. I guess that HR would be the department in charge of doing just that, as they should know the people and how they will react.