We cannot do without rules in life. Without traffic rules, for instance, it would be one big chaos on the road. But on the other hand, we might have gone a bit overboard and have too many rules. This creates regulatory pressure, which can lead to high work pressure and even work-related stress and high psychosocial workload.
So rules are necessary, but can have (unexpected) negative effects. While rules are usually devised and introduced with good intentions. So how do you prevent rules from overshooting their goal and how can you reduce regulatory pressure?
It seems like an open door: introduce rules with the right intentions. Yet it still happens often enough that rules are introduced for the wrong reasons.
For example, rules introduced to nip an upcoming crisis in the bud usually aim to show that you have the situation under control. A long-term vision is still sometimes lacking.
These rules are often not useful and lead to regulatory pressure on employees. Indeed, they can cause psychosocial workload. Because employees want to do the right thing, but if rules hinder them in this, they may experience stress as a result.
Of course, this does not mean that if something serious happens, you should do nothing about it. But if you first investigate what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future, you can introduce rules that stem from a vision, and this will lead to them being better received and complied with.
Let incident management software like Zenya FLOW help you do this. Incidents can not only be recorded and followed up, but also analysed. That way, you know what might cause things to go wrong and based on that, you can then set rules.
If you record those rules as a procedure or process in a document management system like Zenya DOC, everyone knows what is expected of them. This prevents work pressure and makes daily work a lot easier.
When you always have to fall in line, there is little room for creativity. In highly regulated environments, such as the military, the most creative things are generally not thought of. Of course, it is logical that rules call the shots when it comes to protecting and monitoring security.
Within any organisation, it is important to ensure safety, internally and externally. But actually, rules should only serve as a lower limit to enable that safety. To avoid regulatory pressure and thus a high workload, but also because too many rules kill people’s own initiative and creativity.
If you look at psychosocial workload, you will see that employees experience much less of it if they feel they can contribute ideas. They want creativity to be stimulated and appreciated.
What do you want to stand for as an organisation? Do you want employees to follow all the rules like robots, or do you want people to enjoy their work? That they dare to show their own initiative and take responsibility for their work.
It is quite understandable that rules play a more important role in some organisations than in others. Especially when it comes to safety, of employees and externals, you need rules.
However, what we ask you to think about is whether all rules within your organisation contribute to this or whether they have a different role. If the latter is the case, then you might ask yourself whether this does not lead to unnecessarily high regulatory pressure and workload and whether you might be better off scrapping a few.
In addition, following rules means there is little room for flexibility. Therefore, punctuality actions are also much more efficient than strikes. The examples of punctuality actions in recent years do show that strictly following rules actually leads to less quality for the customer, and that hits the organisation hard.
We can name several other examples where regulatory pressure leads to reduced quality and customer satisfaction. The media loves to write stories about situations where rules are rigidly adhered to, for instance by government agencies. And it is precisely those stories that show that sometimes, with regulatory pressure and clinging to rules, we achieve just the opposite.
Letting go of rules a bit more allows employees to take responsibility, as we saw above. But it also gives them the freedom to sometimes deal with issues flexibly and, in doing so, take service provision to a higher level.
So rules can be disastrous for creativity, flexibility, own initiative and personal responsibility. If rules would then contribute to more safety, it would still be defensible.
Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many people dislike rules that, in their eyes, are unnecessary. Then they also experience regulatory pressure and even workload. The consequence of that feeling is that, especially when nobody else sees it, they do not follow the rules.
This, in turn, can lead to unnecessarily dangerous situations. Besides, you can assume that employees also want to get home in one piece every day and right-thinking people do not just walk in seven locks at once. On the contrary, if you impose a lot of (safety) rules, they may not feel taken seriously.
But how do you ensure that employees do work safely? Without them experiencing regulatory pressure or a high workload, or even psychosocial workload?
The solution is two-fold: devise rules that are actually useful and do not take up a lot of time unnecessarily, and hold rules up to the light once in a while.
When introducing rules, it is good to also show why they are useful. Some basic knowledge of psychology can help you here, especially when it comes to rules to make work safer.
Evaluating your rules regularly, just like evaluating improvement and control measures within your incident and risk management, is necessary to stay relevant. Above all, do not do this alone, but involve others. Especially those to whom the rules should apply can give good feedback on the content.
In addition, it would be good to abolish rules if they do not or no longer prove their usefulness. This takes some guts, but it can benefit the organisation so much more than sticking to a situation that is no longer satisfactory.
This way, you make sure that the rules that are useful are everyone’s rules, instead of rules for everyone. This reduces the feeling of regulatory pressure and creates a more pleasant working environment.
The rules you do need, of course, should be properly recorded. So that everyone can consult them at any time. A document management system can help. Would you like to know more about this? Then get in touch with our experts.