What should be banned in your workplace

Decoration at the workplace: that is allowed

What can the boss forbid?
Many employees decorate their workplace with pictures, flowers and more. Not everyone likes that. But can the boss forbid it? We clarify the most important questions.

A good every third employed person in Germany decorates his or her workplace in some way. This was the result of a survey by the market research institute Yougov. The most popular are photos of family or friends, but also fan articles from the favorite soccer team or flowers are often found.

Not every boss likes it. The question is: does he have to tolerate it anyway - or can he forbid it? And where should he not turn a blind eye? We have collected the most important questions and answers.

Why do employees decorate their workplaces at all - and what does the employer get from it?

The majority of employees spend eight hours a day at work. No wonder they want to feel comfortable there. A little decoration can't hurt. On the contrary: a feel-good atmosphere promotes satisfaction and motivation. A study by the University of Hiroshima has shown that posters of baby animals particularly increase concentration and productivity.

Can the decorating of the workplace be forbidden?

Basically, the management decides what the employees are allowed to do, explains Marc Repey, specialist lawyer for labor law at the Berlin law firm Abeln. However, there must be reasons for the order from above. This includes, for example, occupational safety. Escape routes must not be blocked, candles and other potentially dangerous decorative items are also problematic. “Anything that disturbs others at work can be banned in the office,” says the labor lawyer. The family photo on the desk is difficult to forbid, especially at workplaces that are not open to the public. According to Repey, regulations for decoration at the workplace can also be laid down in company agreements or in the house rules. "In practice, however, this is usually not regulated at all," says Repey, and if so, then only verbally.

How can violations of the decoration rules be sanctioned?

In theory, says Repey, it is of course conceivable to warn an employee who does not follow the rules at all. “After all, compliance with such rules is one of the employee's secondary obligations,” says the lawyer. Whether the persistent decorating of the workplace is enough to fire an employee seems questionable. However, it is undisputed: If company property is damaged by the decoration, then the employee is liable - or, if available and except in the case of intent, his private liability insurance.

Can the managing director allow a Bayern-Munich flag but prohibit a Schalke pennant?

No, such a regulation might violate equal treatment. In principle, employees may only be treated differently if there is an important reason for this. “That is why different rules are of course possible for the employees at reception and those in the back office,” says Repey. But the manager is not allowed to decide on the basis of sympathy or aesthetic feelings alone.

In the summer, many employees put a fan in the office, and in December they put a string of lights. Are there anything special to consider?

Employment lawyer Repey warns against allowing the use of electrical devices - regardless of what type and for what purpose - in principle. The so-called industrial safety regulation stipulates that a safety check is mandatory for all devices. “Otherwise there are dangers, for example from electric shocks - especially if the origin of the devices is unclear,” says Repey. Failure to comply will result in fines.

Can the boss dictate that the desk be tidied up?

According to Repey, the principle here as well is that the supervisor or boss can ask the employees to be in order. “However, he shouldn't apply any military standards,” he says. Instead, a sense of proportion is important. Employees are simply different: One can work better at a chaotic-looking desk, while another needs meticulous order. "However, if the operational process is disrupted, for example because important documents cannot be found in the event of illness, it looks different," says Repey. Then an emphatic request to tidy up the desk is perfectly legitimate.

Whether smoking in the office, the birthday party with colleagues or the dog under the desk - millions of employees in Germany ask themselves: What am I legally allowed to do and what not? Markt und Mittelstand explains what is allowed in the workplace and when there is a risk of dismissal.

You can find our overview here.