Four strict workplace rules that will drive you crazy

28 August 2015 -


As a survey reveals that less than one in 10 Londoners were allowed to work from home during the most recent tube strike, Insights takes a look at some of the more inflexible working practices from the world of business

Jermaine Haughton

Following four days of industrial action during July and August over Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plans for a 24-hour Tube, three-quarters of commuters urged companies to be more flexible about the way they work.

Faced with crowded double-decker buses or a long walk to the office, the poll of 1,000 commuters commissioned by conference-call provider MeetingZone found the travel disruptions led to more than 66% of people turning up to work late - with delays averaging 38 minutes a day.

Members of the legal profession proved to be the tardiest – with 89% failing to make it to work on time, according to the survey.

Despite the difficulties facing workers, the survey found that only 9% of Londoners were allowed to work from home.

Considering the modern advancements in technology and communications, critics blame employers for failing to allow workers to work from home or adjust their working hours. For example, some employees could have been allowed to attend work an hour or two later than usual to ease their journey.

In fact, according to the consultancy and jobs site Timewise, an estimated 14.1 million people in Britain want flexibility in their working hours or location, nearly half the UK’s working population. However, only 6.2% (3.5 million) job adverts offered flexible working options and a full time salary of at least £20,000.

“Senior management need to realise the work landscape has changed and stop blocking the adoption of flexible working practices,” MeetingZone chief executive Steve Gandy said. “We’re wasting so much time trying to get into the office when we have the technology at our fingertips.”

And this type of rigidity in workplace practices can have deeply negative effects, with studies showing that company policies directly impact an employee’s risk of heart disease, how long they’re able to sleep, and their family’s well-being.

Here are four other examples of inflexible management

Intrusive Bathroom Rules Among Norwegian Firms

Norwegian insurance company DNB reportedly installed an alarm system in their toilets that alerts managers if an employee spends "too much time" in there. According to the Daily Mail, DNB staff were allowed just eight minutes of toilet time per day before the siren would start alerting managers of their bathroom habits.

Unsurprisingly, workers, unions and workplace inspectors were furious with the practice, labelling it as “highly intrusive” and a potential breach of their human rights.

Norway's chief workplace ombudsman, Bjorn Erik Thon, said: "These are extreme cases of workplace monitoring, but they are real. We receive many complaints about monitoring in the workplace, which is becoming a growing problem as it is so often being used for something other than what it was originally intended for.”

Yahoo bans employee home-working

Barely six months after taking over as Yahoo chief executive in August 2012, Marissa Mayer made one of her most controversial decisions by banning her employees from working from home. Even staff who were only required to work once or twice a week at the firm were given the ultimatum by Mayer to return to the office or quit.

Soon turning into a national debate, the developments reportedly stirred up tensions within the tech company, especially among working mothers and those with dependents, who saw it as a threat to their way of working.

Best Buy ends work-from-home program

Following Yahoo’s lead, retailer Best Buy placed restrictions on its work-from-home staff to force them into the office. Despite ending its Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) flexible working programme in 2013, Best Buy allowed some of its 4,000 non-store employees to telecommute or set flexible schedules.

There was one major clawback, however. The big-box retailer determined that employees not in the office would no longer have the freedom to make important decisions without the manager’s sign off.

Restaurants’ tipping policy ‘forces waiters to pay to work’

Two large restaurant chains, Las Iguanas and Turtle Bay have been accused of enforcing strict guidelines that force waiters and other frontline staff to pay a levy on the tips they receive from customers. At Caribbean chain Turtle Bay, staff pay back to their employer 3% of the table sales they generate on each shift, while the figure rises to 5.5% in Las Iguanas’s London restaurants. While the policy is a money-spinner for the employers, the scheme is a blow to floor staff, with tips often providing a significant proportion of their income.

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