Author: Molly Schwartz
Startups and other young companies tend to be associated with relaxed and casual workplaces. While having a laid back atmosphere can help boost employee mood in general and attract potential hires, these companies can’t let everything become too casual. The company should still feel like a professional place despite the khaki shorts and lack of ties. So if you feel as if your company is becoming too relaxed, reflect on what’s changed and focus on the following four points to help make sure your company still maintains a professional atmosphere.
The first thing a startup can consider is a dress code. Now we don’t mean dress up in a suit and tie every single day, but on days where clients come in or when you visit a client, dress up from blue jeans. Another dress code implementation could be having the opposite of “casual Friday.” Sometimes dressing up can make you feel like there’s something important going on that day and it could even give you more confidence.
However, if you don’t work with clients face to face or feel the need to enforce a dress up day, at the least discourage employees from wearing tattered or worn clothing to the office, especially when customers and outside partners are visiting.
No matter what, a dress code can really help to create a workplace that feels laidback but also professional.
There are also some issues to think about that may bring up legal liabilities such as policies for drinking, social media, and language around the office.
It goes without saying that drugs should be prohibited from the workplace. However, some laidback companies may choose to have alcohol in the office for certain occasions and only for employees of the legal drinking age. If your company does allow alcohol, you should try to discourage any association between drinking and work. It makes perfect sense to want to enjoy a drink with some employees or co-workers after a big job well done, but it might be better to take the group out to a bar or restaurant after work. It’s best to play it safe and avoid an association between alcohol and the workplace because it’s possible to become liable for damages caused by employees under an influence while working. It can also be very emotionally difficult to let an employee go for drinking on the job if that drinking is related to alcoholism (considered a disease/disability and is subject to Americans with Disabilities Act). This is an important issue to think about and a very serious one for your company.
Another important guideline to think about is social media use. There’s one issue of employees using social media while at work, but there’s also the issue of how employees use their personal social media accounts in general. When it comes to employees using social media at work, you should discourage constant Facebook and Twitter checks during the workday. However, spending five minutes on Facebook during a lunch break does not make or break an employee’s productivity levels.
The more important issue of social media networks is how employees use their personal accounts. When employees work for your company, they also become a type of representative for your company, so it’s important to make sure that whatever public information your employees have on their accounts is very clean and reflects positively on your company.
It’s a good idea to discourage employees from discussing their work/the company on social media completely. This will help employees differentiate between work and personal life and will protect your company. Generally, discourage employees from making disparaging comments about your company or another business your company is related to prevent bad publicity from surfacing. You should also avoid employees revealing private information about your company on social media, which could be considered a prohibition under a security law.
The final thing you should work toward discouraging is offensive and derogatory language in the workplace. Once you start hiring employees (even the ones who are close to you and are friends or family), public offensive and derogatory language should be avoided. The last thing your company needs is an unintentional discrimination or harassment lawsuit even if the offensive language isn’t directed at a specific employee. You want a comfortable workplace for everyone who walks in.