Whether you’re an avid fan or totally indifferent, there’s no escaping The Olympic Games at the moment. Between now and 21st August, when the Games end, there are some key considerations for you as a business owner to ensure that - as far as possible - it’s business as usual in your workplace. With good planning and a thought-through approach, you can head off the fall-out when staff make efforts to watch or listen to games during working time – or worst of all, take sickies. And head off the associated impact on business performance of lower employee engagement, absence, and loss of focus too.
Here, we tell you what you need to know.
Be flexible wherever possible
Yes, the Games are a topical issue at the moment, and you may well have members of staff who are very keen to tune in to follow some sports. After all, swimming and athletics are the most popular participation sports in the UK, and even if it’s not a sport they’re personally involved in, other people may want to follow the fortunes of British competitors they know in Rio.
There’s plenty businesses can do to keep their employees happy and reduce sports-related absenteeism this summer. Rio's time zone is only 4 hours behind the UK, so key events will coincide with the working day. Consider reworking your timetables to accommodate any requested time off, allowing later start and finish times, providing viewing facilities in the office, or even giving staff time off in lieu. These will all boost morale and greatly improve productivity on non-game days.
Operational requirements will always be at the top of your agenda, but if you’re organised, it’s very possible to offer a degree of flexibility without it having an impact on productivity and output. If you do make allowances, you’re likely to find that it will boost morale and motivation, which is always a positive thing.
Always apply your existing people policies
A recent survey shows that one in ten employees are planning on ‘pulling a sickie’ over the summer months.
Some best practice companies have an official policy to actively encourage employees to speak to their managers and agree on flexible working that allows them to watch their favourites in action without having to call in sick or take the day off. In practice, it means many take shorter lunch breaks to accrue time they can then spend watching the games, either in the office or at home. Employees appreciate the importance of balancing their customer-focused duties with having fun and enjoying a wonderful summer of sport together.
You don’t have to start from scratch and create a policy that handles the implications of sporting events. It’s very likely that everything you need will already be covered in your current policies and practices, including provisions around annual leave, sickness absence, and alcohol in the workplace.
If you suspect that your written policies are no longer fit for purpose, or that changes need to be made to ensure that you’re compliant with relevant legislation and best practice, then take this as your cue for getting things sorted. We can carry out a review of where you currently are, and make recommendations for moving forward.
Consider your stance on social media usage
With the Olympics underway, many workers will have one tab open for work and one open for play.
Social media usage is another consideration that you may well already have covered within your existing policies. It’s important to consider the fact that your staff may be turning to social platforms and online news sources to stay up to date with the latest races and commentary.
A web use policy should encompass what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and it should be very clearly communicated to all employees. Remember to keep things fair. It wouldn’t be a good idea, for example, to allow athletics fans to use social media during the Rio Olympics 2016, but apply a blanket ban on usage for other reasons. Remember that not everyone is interested in the Olympics!
By the end of the month, the Rio Olympics will be fading into a distant memory for many people. In the here and now though, it’s important to ensure that you’re ready to sidestep any problems and issues. There will be other big sporting events (though maybe not a World Cup final match for England..) and they present companies with a great opportunity to improve employee satisfaction and engagement. If employees feel a company is willing to accommodate their interests, they are more likely to go the extra mile in return.