Workplace code of conduct: standards for a positive work environment
Clear agreements on acceptable standards of behaviour within your organisation contribute to a positive atmosphere at work. By involving your employees in establishing a workplace code of conduct, you can develop a comprehensive set of rules and procedures that will be adhered to by all your workers. Below, you will find the basics of what, why and how to establish a proper code of conduct.
A code of conduct is:
- an internal agreement on commonly shared values and standards within the organisation. A code of conduct goes much further than presenting a mere overview of what constitutes unwanted behaviour, such as workplace bullying, or prohibited behaviour, such as smoking on the premises. Values such as great customer service, for instance, are also included in the code of conduct.
- a positive tool for creating a positive work environment that fosters mutual trust. As such, the code of conduct does not replace the Company Rules and provides no basis for sanctions.
- a custom policy built on the existing company culture. The code of conduct outlines the company's most important values but also addresses specific problem areas.
By developing a code of conduct for your workers, they will know exactly where they stand and what is expected of them. When problematic behaviour arises, the code of conduct provides an objective means for conflict resolution. It also serves as a positive instrument during coaching sessions. And last but not least, the code of conduct is a useful source of information for new employees about shared values and standards within the organisation.
A code of conduct is often developed in response to a risk assessment during which (potential) issues of workplace harassment are revealed. A code of conduct will not resolve these issues, as this requires different tools, but it will help prevent future issues from arising. Of course, an even better approach is not to wait until such situations emerge, and establish a code of conduct by way of prevention.
- Involve your employees
It is best to establish such a comprehensive set of rules in consultation with your employees. The prevention advisor could organise a group meeting with a delegation of workers, during which a number of standards are proposed and then discussed by the group. These proposals usually highlight the company culture and potential bottlenecks, and are often based on discussions held previously with supervisors and managers.
- Put the code of conduct in an easily accessible location
As soon as the code of conduct has been validated by all relevant parties, it must be made easily accessible to all employees. Where and how you do this will depend on the nature of your operations. For labourers, the best place to display the code of conduct may be a digital screen or a notice board. For office workers who spend a lot of time behind their computer, it may be best to publish the code of conduct on the intranet.
- Review the code of conduct annually
Keep in mind that every business evolves and changes. Ideally, the code of conduct should be reviewed annually to reassess the rules and procedures, and to make changes as needed.
- How to uphold the code of conduct
How will you make sure that your employees observe the company standards laid out in the code of conduct? It is generally recommended to clearly stipulate in the code of conduct how these standards will be upheld. For instance, you could include a provision that allows workers to approach colleagues who fail to observe the code of conduct.
With special thanks to Heidi Henkens, prevention advisor on psychosocial aspects at Mensura
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