If you live anywhere in the region you may have noticed the Girl Scouts cookie booths at the entrance to every grocery store taking place now. If by some small chance you haven’t seen one at your local supermarket, I am sure someone in your office has the cookie form and is helping out with orders on behalf of their daughter, granddaughter, or their niece. Other similar types of fundraisers or sales that may be occurring in your office include popcorn sales for Boy Scouts, jewelry such as Silpada, and/or beauty products like Mary Kay or Avon. While we all love the opportunity to support our colleagues and communities, the larger your business grows, the more frequent these “in-office solicitations” can occur. If you are concerned about this becoming a disruption to your business, you may want to consider setting a precedent before the flood gates open.
How Fundraisers or Solicitations Become a Problem at the Office
Who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies and shopping, really? Usually in-office solicitations are for causes or products we love and it’s being sold by colleagues we enjoy. However, you and I both know what happens…we lose focus on what we were working on, we gather to see what’s being offered, chat about the options, tell stories and before we know it, 30 minutes have passed! Try multiplying that same scenario by the numerous employees and potential buyers in the office and you’ll soon be able to quantify the reduction in productivity and efficiency. Or on the opposite spectrum, the solicitations could make some employees feel obligated or uncomfortable if they don’t want to participate.
A best practice is to create a No Solicitation Policy for your workplace. A no solicitation/no distribution policy prohibits soliciting for any cause on company property and prohibits the distribution of printed material on company property. According to the National Labor Relations Act, the policy must be in writing and should be distributed widely to educate employees of the rules.
If you decide to create a No Solicitation Policy, there are a few things you should consider:
- Make sure that the phrase “work time” is defined. You need to exclude lunch, as you can’t control what an employee does when they are not at work or not on the clock.
- Define work areas and non-work areas. You want to ensure there is no confusion where employees may or may not engage in solicitation and/ or distribution.
- Check to see if your industry is regulated by special guidelines created by the NLRB.
Once you have a policy in place the most important thing as with any policy is to consistently apply the rules so as not to appear discriminatory. By creating flexibility, you can still support your colleagues and you are setting parameters around when and where it is appropriate.