Most hard-core workplace rules

Most hard-core workplace rules

One UK council recently came under fire for what was perceived as ‘bizarre’ rules for its workforce in a policy.

In an email sent to all staff, workers at Carlisle City Council in England’s north-west were instructed they must clock out if they wanted to talk about the weather, holidays or babies.

The email also stated that any “intimate behaviour during work time” could be deemed gross misconduct and lead to disciplinary action, such as suspension or termination. It also warned against using social-networking, sport or fashion websites, looking at photographs and posting adverts on for-sale or wanted websites. Members of staff who wished to smoke a cigarette were also required to clock-out. “Surely it is not unreasonable to expect you to clock-out if you wish to have a 10-minute conversation with a colleague about the weather?” the email read.

Yet subsequently after an extreme backlash the policies were scrapped and have not been re-introduced. The Council later deemed the email an example of poor staff management, and the deputy chief executive said the matter was an “isolated incident” and lessons would be learned.

As hard-core as these policies may have been, it pales in comparison to memos sent in other industries.

Global mining corporation BHP takes coal very seriously, and smelly food just as much so. The corporate giant has an “effective” set of office rules, which have by no means been overturned.

Workers are banned from eating at their desk, slinging jackets over their chairs, and even putting sticky notes anywhere on their workstation. 

Late last year the company sent out a memo to its Brisbane employees reminding them of their policies which they say have been in place for a “couple of years”. Its “Office Environment Standard” stated:

  • Post-it notes are to be removed from your monitors and keyboards at the end of the day;
  • Other than workstation identification and first aid or fire warden signage, nothing is to be placed on workstation dividers, walls or doors at any time;
  • Additional clothing must be stored in designated storage areas during the workday and not on chairs or at workstations;
  • Food must not be eaten at your work station;Food that emits strong odours is not allowed at all;
  • Mobile phone ring tones kept at low volume and forwarded to voice mail when out of office; 
  • No iPod or MP3 players to be used in the office.

BHP spokesperson Samantha Stevens said she was yet to hear of a single complaint and that the policy was straightforward and effective. She added that the strict policy was in place in order to facilitate switching desks, frequent travel of employees and to maintain security of information.

“It's pretty common in open plan environments to have ground rules so people can work happily and co-operatively in a clean space,” Stevens said, adding that the Brisbane memo was reflective of policies across all BHP Billiton offices.

Have you implemented or experienced similar strict workplace rules?


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