What’s the catch with ‘no policing’ company cultures?

Gautam Sahgal, COO at Perkbox, considers ‘no policing’ company cultures and how to get the best out of them, for both employers and employees.

As I’m sure you’re aware, ‘no policing cultures’ have a core philosophy of putting people over processes. The likes of Netflix, Spotify or indeed ourselves, here at Perkbox are all good examples of this increasingly popular trend.

Working in this way, means relying on our own employees to instil fairness. They decide what will make them most productive and what other team members need. In return, we must trust that this will bring the best results to our business.

A culture of this sort arguably has more policies in place to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorders (SAD) such as January Blues. Employees can decide more freely what is best for them at any point in time. There are no rules, just boundaries.

Why is it then that policies such as ‘unlimited holidays’ are causing people to take fewer holidays and “presenteeism” at work is becoming an ever increasing trend?

What can we do to change this?

Communicate clearly

It’s simple, people fear change and if they don’t understand the reasons behind it they become dubious about why they are being offered the freedom in the first place. Open dialogue about expectations and needs is crucial to overcome this problem.

Consider for example, the ‘unlimited holidays’ scheme. Employees are likely to fall into the trap of taking less time off than they deserve if they don’t know where to draw the line between acceptable and excessive, particularly if they are feeling irritable and lethargic, the typical symptoms when affected by SAD.

Include guidelines for your policies in your employee handbook to encourage utilisation and avoid these pitfalls. Work closely with People Managers across the organisation so that they collaborate with others ensuring the whole team feels comfortable taking on the initiatives you offer without feeling guilty or conscious about doing so.

Lead by Example

Having a clearly defined mission, vision and values works well only if you step back and let your team get on with their work. You’d be surprised how following this simple rule helps people take more ownership whilst encouraging them to feel comfortable doing whatever works best for them to achieve the results you want.

What’s more, we often forget that the culture of an organisation is set by its leaders. If employees see their boss never gets away from the office or takes holidays, they are more likely to follow the same steps, regardless of whether the company policies reflect these. A workaholic workforce struggling to balance work and life, is the result.

You must live the culture you are trying to create in order for it to become real.

Redefine Success

When failure occurs we naturally tend to be very hard on ourselves. This causes stress and makes us move towards that fine line between high performance and burnout. It’s our role as leaders to change this by redefining what success means to us, along with the negative connotation that ‘failure’ is associated with.

The reason? Failure is an essential part of learning. What’s more, it’s usually the key to the greatest of our successes. Normalising it creates a culture of psychological safety and encourages the ‘no policing’ culture principles to work at their very best.

Every business will experience some degree of blues in the winter months but this shouldn’t be seen as an inevitable. A key part of building a great team and business is realising that only by catering for the entire employee experience of our workforce – not just inside but also outside of work – will we ever strive to achieve it. Especially in a ‘no-policing’ culture where freedom is the underlying factor, our role as leaders is to train our staff to recognise early signs of stress and SAD and speak openly about them.

Wellbeing is important. Let’s give it the attention it deserves.