Can sport be bad for your business health?

Employees who take sick days during sports events will need careful monitoring this Summer, which features a perfect storm of the Champions League Final, the Football World Cup, Wimbledon, Tour de France, my annual village Rounders grudge match and the British Grand Prix to name but a few of the fabulous sporting line ups.

We all know that sickness absences surge during and after big sporting events, so with many key matches scheduled during work hours, organisations would do well to get ahead of the game and forward plan this Summer. The 2010 and 2014 World Cups are said to have cost the UK economy over £4bn each, and other big events aren’t far behind.

Experts all agree that sick days during sports events are not inevitable, but the issue needs careful handling – nearly one in five* (19 percent) say that lack of flexibility was the reason they took a full day off rather than arrive at work later or leave earlier. So, with a little creativity, can absenteeism be prevented?

1. Plan ahead
Whether they are watching the football or cheering on Andy or Jo on Centre Court, as the dates for certain matches and events get announced, you are likely to see a spike in the amount of annual leave being requested. However, as much as you may want to, you are not going to be able to accommodate them all, but you can take steps to make it as fair as possible.
Gather a list of dates and ask everyone to register their interest in any games they want to watch. Calculate how many people you can afford to have off on a single day and establish a rota to see if everyone is desperate to take a day off. Research has shown that businesses that plan for absence ahead of time can reduce their loss in productivity significantly

2. Expand on your flexi-time offering
In an effort to achieve more of a work-life balance, all employees now have the right to request flexible working arrangements from their employers. Introducing “flexi-time” policies can be a difficult balancing act. While you may not want to use it to cover sporting events, your staff will likely be grateful for it during the summer months. And allowing your employees to leave early, in order to accommodate a match or game, ensures that they are far less tempted to pull a sickie or be unproductive all day.

3. Compromise, compromise, compromise
Before implementing any concrete plans, be sure to have a think about any temporary changes that you could introduce into your business structure. Are there ways that your employees could make up for taking time out to watch games? In return for ducking out of the office for a couple of hours, could your sales team make it up by attending more conferences or after-work meet up events? You could find that their customer service improves dramatically as they will be grateful for the leniency shown and therefore more invested in their role.

4. Get in on the fun
Which sports are most likely to cause employees to miss work? In the UK, football probably takes top spot. Why not channel excitement by serving topical ‘game-day’ food in the cafeteria or run fun sweep stakes or inter department, friendly sporting quizzes or games – nothing says Summer more than a lunchtime game of Rounders! (my personal favourite!). You could award a set of highly sought after sporting tickets for good staff attendance. Sports provide a connection for colleagues to discuss the game, left off steam and get together in a friendly way, so organisations should embrace them.

5. Timetable in your big projects
Don’t plan to kick off any big, bold initiatives for Monday morning after a big sporting event. Instead, pro-actively bring up the possibility of absences before and ask that anyone planning a late night let you know now whether they would like to request coming in later or booking a day’s holiday.

Can sporting events actually improve the office environment?
Despite any measures you put in place, the chances are that your employees will still be distracted by what is going on in the world of sport. There is simply no way around it, so if their attention is likely to be elsewhere, why not use it to your advantage by using momentum of high-profile events for employee team building? Yup – I’m thinking about Rounders again!!

If you would like to get ahead of the game and put in place a proactive HR plan to manage for optimum productivity this Summer, why not give me a call or drop me a line now**.

* Kronos, 2016

** p.s. anyone for Rounders?!!! Anyone???