Major sporting events such as the Six Nations, Wimbledon, F1, World Cup and the Olympic Games do not come around that often. Therefore, when they do, these events are understandably afforded extensive media coverage and garner a significant level of public interest. Organisations will face a number of potential issues during these events, ranging from a reduction in attendance and overall productivity to a rise in instances of gross misconduct.
As with any initiative, implementing a workplace policy is the most effective method of outlining a company’s stance on the matter. Those who choose to create a designated policy are encouraged to lay down specific guidelines clearly outlining acceptable behaviour on, amongst other things, attendance, holiday booking and workplace conduct.
It may be advisable for line managers to hold a series of brief and informal meetings with employees before the event begins. This gives them a chance to clearly lay out what is expected of employees, making reference to the rules of the relevant workplace policies, providing staff with an opportunity to ask any questions.
One important factor for organisations to address is how to manage internet usage during sporting events, given that employees will likely use the internet to keep up with various results throughout the working day. If a large part of your workforce spends significant time doing this it will have a detrimental impact on workplace productivity. Therefore, organisations should make a decision on whether to allow this practice or not.
Disciplinary procedures should be used when employees found to be breaking company rules on internet usage as failure to effectively do so may encourage others to follow suit.
ACAS guidance on this encourages organisations to balance the needs of the business with the interests of individuals, therefore where possible organisations may consider allowing staff to follow the action in some way.
Watching the Events
Where a TV licence is in place, organisations may allow staff the flexibility to watch major sporting events as a special perk.
Providing it is feasible a TV may be installed in the staff room or communal area allowing employees to watch in between shifts or during designated break times. This level of flexibility can have a positive impact on the workforce as employees will appreciate these efforts to accommodate their needs, helping to create a positive company culture.
However, organisations should consider the risk of individuals taking extended or unauthorised breaks to take advantage of this perk. To avoid employees shirking their work duties in favour of watching the action on TV clear ground rules should be made on the appropriate times to make use of the perk.
Holiday requests can be a controversial issue during major sporting events whether that is due to requests taking place at short notice or the fact that multiple individuals may often ask for the same day(s) off.
Remind staff of the need to request holidays in advance, providing as much notice as possible, would be an effective move. Having a clear stance on holidays will allow organisations to ensure a level of continuity for the duration of these events.
Although organisations may experience increased unauthorised absences around major sporting events you should not jump to conclusions on the reasons behind absenteeism. Employees should be reminded in advance if the event of the absence notification procedure as well as the usual method for dealing with unauthorised absences which is likely to include recourse to the disciplinary procedure.
Return to work interviews should be held after every absence and any inconsistent information received from the employee should be investigated.
Flexible working practices could be useful in preventing issues surrounding holiday requests and unauthorised absences. All employees with 26 weeks’ service are able to make a flexible working request for any reason.
Despite the scope for creating positive workplace atmosphere organisations should consider that major sporting events regularly offer the potential for inappropriate or offensive behaviour. If managers overhear offensive remarks, or if they receive a complaint from an employee regarding inappropriate behaviour they should deal with this in the normal way using their grievance and disciplinary procedures.
Organisations with a multinational workforce may be at a particularly high risk as what may be deemed by some to be light-hearted banter regarding certain teams or participants may be considered discriminatory by others. Having an informal and open conversation with employees about the dangers of banter prior to the tournament should help reduce instances of alleged discrimination.
If you need help managing your employees during sporting events or need help creating a sporting event policy, contact our team of HR Professionals.
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