Home > Communication > Formality and Informality: When it's Okay to Relax

Formality and Informality: When it's Okay to Relax

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 15 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Relaxing Relax Formality Informality

One of the benefits of running your business with other members of your family ought to be that you can afford to relax a little more and not worry so much about formality, but in practice this isn't always appropriate. It can be important to maintain formal codes of behaviour in order to ensure disciplined work, good timekeeping and due respect for superiors.

Formality can also be important for making the right impression on clients or other business people you're working with. So when is it okay to allow informality in the workplace, and can a relaxing environment still be productive?

Different Business Spaces

If you have room within your premises, having different rules of conduct for different business spaces can be an ideal way to help staff relax. Many work environments have a separate staff room where employees can take breaks and chat, but it's worth noting that some kinds of work can also be done in this kind of space. For instance, if your workspace has an office where you deal with customers and a machine room where you undertake production, you can allow a degree of informality in the latter without affecting how clients are likely to perceive your business.

Chatting won't interfere with manual work the way it can with administrative work so whilst it's not okay for the office, it may be okay for other parts of your premises. However if you set up separate spaces like this you'll need to be very strict about enforcing the boundaries between them. Staff must know that it's not okay to introduce the informality of one work area into another. In this way, more formal rules can actually help you to preserve a more relaxing environment in part of your premises - though you'll also need to supervise it sufficiently closely that you can make sure relaxing doesn't turn into doing no work.

Time Out

Whatever kind of premises you have, providing a staff room or even just some space within the family home can help both to make break times more relaxing and to make them more distinct from working time. This can help to stop chat spilling over into the work environment.

Staff will work better if they really feel able to relax during their breaks, you should encourage an informal atmosphere by making sure the break room is comfortable and is supplied with drinks and snacks. Although many people feel a real need for caffeine, fruit juice and water are healthier and, if you can persuade people to drink them, can perk them up and make them more alert when they return to their duties. Fresh fruit is also really good for this and will make people feel energised for longer that things like chocolate and biscuits which contain glucose.

Providing a water cooler on your premises, or a supply of ice in the kitchen if you're based in the family home, can give your staff an excuse to take short breaks from their routine work but can keep them healthy in the process. Place a reasonable limit - say, five minutes - on the time you allow for non-work related chatting around the water cooler, and only intervene if you see people standing there for longer. If they spend most of the working day at desks, being on their feet for a bit will be good for them and should lead to improved concentration when they return.

Personal Space In The Workspace

Without compromising on professional standards, you can create a more relaxing environment at work by encouraging employees to decorate their work areas with photographs, small toys, plants and the like. This will reinforce their sense of personal connection with the business and will thus encourage them to be more productive.

In most business environments, where health and safety is not an issue, you can also allow them a lot of leeway to choose their own work clothes, so long as they look smart. This will encourage them to feel that their individuality is respected within the business, and it can make a positive impression on clients, who will be more likely to engage with them as people than they would be if they were wearing uniforms.

Formality in a family business an be useful in constructing a distinctly business-focused space and minimising distractions, but it doesn't need to apply to everything employees do. Allowing them a degree of freedom can not only make the workplace more relaxing, it can raise morale and lead to a higher standard of work.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: