Summer of sport - on your marks, get set, go!

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 22 June 2012

There's a lot of talk about the summer of sport and its potential for disrupting business as usual - especially in London where traffic problems are likely to be considerable.

Euro 2012, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games are all big distractions that threaten to take our collective eyes off the prize as we down tools to watch sport instead of getting on with our work.

The threat of disruption

A YouGov survey for Citrix found that that 41% of London SMEs expect disruption as a result of the 2012 Olympics, but only 21% have a business continuity plan in place.

The poll of more than 500 senior decision-makers of London-based SMEs also found that only 10% are adopting new working practices to minimise interruptions.

Of those businesses expecting disruption, 87% believe productivity will suffer, with lateness, cancelled meetings and absenteeism all cited as potential problems. Overall, 56% of SMEs expect more staff to work from home.

The legal position

Law firm ELAS says that the summer of sport could cost the British economy more than £2billion in lost productivity as workers duck away from their desks or get stuck in Olympic gridlock.

Peter Mooney, head of employment law at ELAS, said: "There's no doubt that this summer is going to be a fantastic one for sport, but for many employers it could turn into a very big headache. We know from past experience that productivity takes a dive when there's a big sporting event that distracts workers. But the combined pulling power of all three sporting events will see the cost to businesses spiral over this summer."

So what can small firms do to manage the next couple of months?

Let staff know what the rules are

The most important thing is to prepare in advance for some disruption by letting staff know what their options are and by being flexible.

Time off

Make sure you remind your staff what the rules are regarding annual leave. Are holidays granted on a first-come, first-served basis for example? And do they have to give a certain amount of notice?

Flexible hours and home working

Make sure you understand your responsibilities and staff rights when it comes to requesting flexible hours or working from home. By embracing a flexible approach and giving your staff clear productivity targets, you'll give them the chance to manage their time so that work doesn't suffer.

Absenteeism

There was a definite spike in levels of absenteeism during the hot weather in March this year. To avoid an epidemic of "sickies" this summer, reiterate your absenteeism policies - otherwise you may see an increase in staff calling in with croaky voices or rolling in at lunchtime complaining that the traffic was murder.

Your business, your rules

Of course, as a business owner, you make the rules and one option is to get a TV in the office so your staff can watch key sporting moments without having to take much time off. But you'll need a TV licence for an office telly if you don't already have one.

And don't leave the TV blaring all day - you'll have to have very clear guidelines about what's acceptable to watch. There's obviously a big difference between stopping to see the hundred-metres final and putting your feet up to watch a four-hour tennis match.

Online viewing

Watching online is also an option (but again you may need a TV licence). But you're setting a very dangerous precedent if you let staff treat their computers as TV screens at work - before you know it they may be catching up on episodes of the Killing.

And that's another crucial issue. Sport can bring us together but the chances are that football and athletics will leave some of your staff absolutely cold. If you make special dispensations to watch sport, should you be giving others time off to watch the Chelsea Flower Show or the Great British Bake-Off?

But if you agree that staff can watch a few key sporting moments in the office, it might be a very positive move - it's a short break rather than a day's lost productivity - and it could be good for staff morale and team-building.

So let's wish every success to Team GB, Andy Murray and the England football team.

Read all our content on the 2012 Olympics and what it means for your business in our special guide.

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