We’re in the midst of Wimbledon, which means a couple of things; a massive upturn in strawberry consumption, and more importantly a gaggle of Brits going tennis mad for a fortnight. Across the UK, people will be wishing they were sat on Henman Hill – or better yet, cheering from centre court – but instead will have to be at work.
Whilst we all love to get caught up in the sporting festivities, managers up and down the country will all face a similar struggle to maintain employee engagement and ensure high levels of productivity, regardless of the sporting distractions that could divert their attentions. Most employees will be happy enough to ignore the minor games at the beginning of the first week. However, the key matches featuring the likes of Andy Murray and Venus Williams, usually take place in the middle of the working day and are likely to distract workers and impact productivity, as employees try to follow the game on their phones or laptops. This might even lead to a spike in unplanned absences, with the most diehard fans taking time off work to see the key games.
At a time when the UK economy is trying to shake off its reputation for low productivity, it is critical that small businesses have plans in place to pre-empt and counteract these potential absence issues. Here are some ideas for small business owners to think about in preparation for key sporting events.
Management can go further than flexible working policies
Flexible working policies are a great way to allow employees to achieve work-life balance at any time of the year, but management can go further. By identifying the dates of key sporting events, especially for the bigger occasions like Wimbledon, businesses can liaise with employees in advance to assign shifts to those that want to work and amend the schedules of those who want to watch the big matches. This is not a one size fits all approach though and relies on good communications with the workforce to ensure they continue to be proactive and a fair system is in place for all employees wishing to take advantage of flexible hours. There are a number of ways this approach can be implemented, from starting early to allow for early finishes, through to extending lunch breaks to watch the game, with the time made up before or at the end of the working day. Keeping an honest and open dialogue when implementing flexible working is important, as is accurate time measurement. Using an automated scheduling system can help ensure there are no gaps in the workforce, all regulations are adhered to, and people are remunerated fairly for the hours they work.
Give your absence policy some spin. One of the biggest causes of unauthorised annual leave policies. Our research consistently reveals that almost one in five people claim that these rigid policies are why they do not turn up for work. For those employees that are particularly tennis mad or are lucky enough to be able to attend themselves, it is important for employees to feel, as long as their colleagues are in agreement, they are able to negotiate leave at late notice without resorting to unplanned absence. Again, this works both ways – employees must commit to pre planning and providing as much advanced warning as possible when they want to take annual leave. Businesses, on the other hand, need to ensure there is a fair holiday scheduling system, that is the same for everyone, regardless of seniority within the company.
Be realistic. Rather than hindering staff enthusiasm over Wimbledon, embrace it – kit out your staff room with a TV; bring in some strawberries and cream and enjoy the key matches with your employees. This will not only improve staff morale but it can also encourage employee engagement which is more likely to result in a higher level of productivity that will continue long after Murray wins match point…
Enforce the absence policy. Any absence policy needs to be monitored and enforced consistently and fairly throughout the organisation to curb unscheduled absences – our research shows that more than half of employed adults believe that their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced.
Game, set and match… Provide incentives for excellent attendance. In large organisations, time and attendance systems are an invaluable tool for tracking and reporting on attendance levels. Many organisations effectively use perfect attendance bonuses as an incentive to reduce absenteeism.
Year on year high profile sporting events clash with the working week, whether it’s the footie mad desperate to watch the World cup football, or the racket happy welcoming Wimbledon onto their screens. This can produce HR headaches but with a bit of smart thinking and pre-planning, these events can become the ultimate opportunity to engage with your workforce. Taking on board these top tips can help boost employee morale, whilst ensuring there isn’t a drop in productivity. This year, make Wimbledon a match point for employee engagement.
Neil Pickering is customer and industry insight manager at Kronos.