Cartoon sailboats float on a blue sea of white capped waves. Fish are seen in the water as well.

All in the Same Boat: Developing Workplace Policies as a Team

When you think of the phrase “start-up company” a variety of images might pass through your mind, maybe you picture the romanticized techie dorm room or garage beginnings, or you might think of a darker picture of working long hours in service of an vision that may not happen . What is the reality? Your perspective might be different if you are the captain of the ship versus the sailor. Reaching that distant shore of your goals is going to take hard work, but how do you ensure your new company keeps people and their values first while getting there? Just as your workplace culture evolves based on who makes up your workplace, so should your workplace policies. Develop your company policies as a team. 

How to Develop Policies as a Team

1. Do your Research

What kind of policies do other companies in your industry have? What are your legal responsibilities? Are you required by law to have a workplace health and safety policy?  What are your local labour laws? After how many hours must employees receive over time? How many breaks should they receive in a day? 

Don’t have the expertise to know where to begin? Consider hiring an HR consultant to get you started. 

2. Team Meeting

Gather the team to find out what everyone values. This will inform what policies you will create together. Does the group value social responsibility and giving back to the community? Are they interested in being a leader in sustainability or making the office greener? (They should be!) What is important to them in work/life balance? For instance, flexible start and end times to be able to catch a bus or drop the kids off at school, sick days or work from home days etc. 

You may use these meetings to get initial ideas or you may even hash out the bare bones of a policy right then and there.

3. Assign a Policy Lead 

As a start-up, you probably have a small team. Maybe it’s only you and a couple of people so far. Use the expertise and passion you have in the room. Say you’ve decided as a team to create policies on Wellness, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sustainability. Was there someone in the team meeting that was really passionate about one of these topics? Assign them as the lead on that policy. They can be in charge of research on the topic, getting the opinions of their colleagues and writing up a draft policy. Refer them to any resources you may have gathered in the research phase.

4. Review Policies as a Team

Make sure the draft policies get circulated for feedback from all team members. If your team is a little larger, send the initial draft to relevant people ex. a sustainability committee or those involved in human resources. 

5. Team Meeting and Repeat!

After getting feedback, revise and bring the policy back to the entire team in-person at a meeting. Decide on how often policies should be reviewed, what procedures may need to be created in order to enact these policies and so on. Employees will have confidence in a company they feel respects their values and protects their rights as workers. 

Consider having annual policy check-ins to see if anything needs to be updated or if new policies need to be created. 

Bonus step: Be Ready!

With the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces had to move quickly to make multiple policies on how to continue work safely. If you are used to developing policies as a team, you will have all the tools needed to create new ones quickly in an emergency. 

Take these tools and build a safe, inclusive, sustainable boat together!

For further resources on policies and procedures

Claire Woodbury
Environmental Planner at Narratives Inc.

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