Banned: Where Did These Workplace Perks and Policies Go Wrong?
Each workplace is unique, which helps explain some of the unique policies and perks found on the job. But, although concepts like Hawaiian shirt day or casual Fridays may seem commonplace and harmless, they can still backfire when people take them to new extremes (sweatpants, anyone?) or when no one else plays along.
That was the problem with some of the following perks and privileges that were banned from certain offices: either they were too loved or universally despised. Others were banned for legal reasons or because they were seen as counterproductive to management’s goals.
Put down that fish patty! And your popcorn, too. While the office microwave is usually fair game, be sure you’re using it wisely. The biggest offenders? Fish, curry and … microwave popcorn. SeriousEats reported in 2010 that more than 400 people in one office opted to ban food entirely – and it started because of a VP’s sensitivity to burned popcorn. So before you pack last night’s leftovers, be sure you check your office policy to determine if they’re allowed.
Scents and sensibility. You love Chanel No. 5. Unfortunately, not all of your coworkers feel the same. In fact, some of them feel pretty rough whenever anyone is wearing fragrances. Complaints from coworkers ranging from allergic reactions to migraines have prompted businesses and government offices – including the entire city of Portland, Oregon – to ban perfume and cologne in the workplace. And it’s not just flowery smells but flowers, too. One hospital in Washington even requests that well-wishers select “less fragrant” flowers.
Your philodendron says you have something to hide. Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword – businesses around the globe are serious about creating environments where workers can talk face to face, from open floor plans to huddle rooms. Improved collaboration is part of the reason the BBC’s London offices in 2013 banned plants from workers' desks. Potted plants were no longer welcome because of their potential use in marking one’s territory or forming barriers that prevent collaboration, reported the DailyMail.co.uk. In the words of the official BBC memo, “Plants give a strong sense of ownership of a particular desk or area when we would like staff to feel much more mobile and flexible." Coat stands and tea kettles are also highly discouraged.
Keep your cookies to yourself. To some of us, spring means one thing: Girl Scout cookie time. But whether you’re selling for your daughter or your half-niece’s step-sister who lives down the street, you’d be wise to check office policy first. In 2013, a Florida woman was fired from her job because she was selling her daughter’s Girl Scout cookies on company time and property. While the punishment may seem harsh relative to the sweetness of the crime, realize that this ages-old workplace tradition isn’t welcome by one and all. HR pros indicate that a number of workplaces have written policies preventing such activities if they consume time that should be dedicated to work duties. Other workplaces permit selling only in common areas like break rooms. How do workers themselves feel about it? A survey by the recruiting firm Accounting Principals discovered that more than one-quarter of all workers feel pressured to buy items they don’t need and “hate” the practice. Fortunately for cookie lovers, that stat was almost balanced out by the 24 percent who say they’ll buy anything a co-worker’s child is selling.
Serious birthdays only, please. Remember the episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine’s office celebrated a birthday seemingly everyday – and always with cake? Relax, no one is taking away the cake ... yet. Birthday cards, on the other hand, have been off limits since 2006 at some offices in the UK. Reported the Times.co.uk, laws took effect nine years ago that could put employers at risk of discrimination for humorous birthday greetings sent around the office. Insurance firm Alan and Thomas Ltd. opted to play it safe by banning birthday greetings signed by coworkers as a pre-emptive measure to prevent jokes about age or becoming “over the hill.” Instead, the company switched its policy: Alan and Thomas now sends a generic best-wishes card from the entire office. It’s very PC.
By the way, we don’t consider this list of banned perks to be comprehensive, so if you know of an office policy that’s missing from our list, speak up and leave your comments below.