There are occasions when staff expect to be able to let their hair down and have some downtime. Christmas parties, obviously, or Friday evening beers in the boardroom for the lucky few.
Or FIFA’s World Cup tournament, which comes around once every four years. Some companies – usually those with football-loving CEOs – allow staff to relax normal rules and put TVs into the boardroom so you can catch the big games. Others even turn a blind eye when employees nip off to the pub if it’s a crunch game. It’s all a bit of fun, isn’t it?
It came to the attention of the UK media in June when it was widely reported that Royal Mail had banned its drivers and postmen from flying England – or for that matter, any – flags from (or attaching stickers to) vans, lorries, trolleys, and even bikes.
Perhaps predictably, the outrage on social media came fast and furious, with commenters branding the ruling “petty and unpatriotic”.
Portraying health and safety officials as tedious killjoys is a national sport in the UK, with the stereotype regularly lampooned and ridiculed.
But as ever, look beyond the headlines and the story is not so simple.
Royal Mail isn’t simply being a spoilsport; there is a reason for the policy.
In a statement it said: “Flags should not be flown on vehicles as Royal Mail has a duty of care both to all employees and to members of the public.”
While the Highway Code does not bar driving with a flag, doing so must not run the risk of obscuring vision for the driver or other road users. It can also present problems should it become detached. Making the move an eminently sensible one.
Royal Mail points out that no such bar applies to its depots, where matches will be broadcast live over PA systems, so that posties won’t miss out. Hardly unpatriotic.
And let’s not forget, these are professional vehicles that carry Royal Mail’s insignia, a corporate identity that has taken many years, and substantial investment, to create and protect. Wishing to retain a sense of professionalism while such vehicles are being used for work duties and in public view is perfectly reasonable; in the same statement Royal Mail says: “No other flag or insignia should be carried next to the Royal Mail brand and insignias.”
Sounds like an instance of health and safety and common-sense corporate communications working perfectly sensibly together.