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Dealing with major sporting events during worktime

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The Wimbledon Tennis Championships started this week and depending on how far Andy Murray or Jo Konta gets in the competition, it could generate some national interest and have an impact of some tennis loving employees. So it’s a relevant time to remind you as the employer of the potential issues you may like to consider, since some organisations do experience an increase in short-term absence levels during major sporting events and less productivity.


Whatever you do address or embrace it, they key is to make your approach / policy clear at an early stage so there can be no ambiguity.  Some possible alternatives include:


Flexible working – allowing staff to take time off providing cover is in place and the time is ‘made up’ at some other time.


Taking holiday – asking employees to take annual leave if they wish to watch the match/es.  If you follow this route you will need to set out rules about who gets the first option - 'first come first served' etc.  You may also need to remind staff about minimum cover levels and the notice they need to give.


Home working – an option for some, but very difficult to monitor.


Facilities at work – why not consider having or using the facilities at work to make the matches a 'social' occasion – giving staff the option to watch or listen to the matches whilst working?  However, it is probably wise to keep such gatherings alcohol free to ensure staff safety and avoid accidents when operating machinery etc!


Internet / social media use – something many employers will forget to think about – with live radio coverage available and news channels streaming the results etc, you may need to re-state your internet and mobile phone usage policy. If employers are monitoring internet usage the data protection regulations require them to make it clear that it is happening to all employees.


Overall, flexibility from both parties throughout any major sporting event period is the key to a continuing productive business and engaged workforce. You could even get some good PR out of the occasion or use it as a reason to get a bit of healthy department rivalry going to increase productivity. Creating a buzz around things like a major sporting event in the workplace can have many positive opportunities and possibilities. Also, you could look at the sporting calendar throughout the year and see how you can gain maximum leverage from any of those that most employees may be interested in.


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