The Olympics have now come to a close for another four years. The time difference between the UK and Rio has made watching it live a bit tricky, but thanks to modern broadcasting you can catch up on TV, radio, laptop and phone 24 hours a day. But the fact is live coverage of ‘the greatest show on earth’ did happen during working hours.
This threw up a bit of a dilemma for managers – should employees be given time away from their desks to watch a major sporting event? It was only in June that a large proportion of the UK workforce downed tools to watch England play Wales at Euro 2016 – pretty much the only highlight if you are an England fan. But does taking a couple of hours out to watch sport actually have a positive impact in the workplace, or is it just a couple of hours lost?
Earlier this year, when Euro 2016 was underway, the Institute of Leadership and Management made headlines by encouraging employers to show the England vs Wales game in the office. Their rationale was based on some surveying work they had done among their own members. They found that 77% of people thought that screening summer sporting events in the office would boost morale. 30% went even further, saying that it would positively impact productivity. In fact, the conciliation service Acas advised firms to get flexible working guidelines in place with staff before the tournament started so avoid any disputes.
But it’s not just about the odd game of football or Gold Medal attempt. Bring Your Dog to Work Day is an actual thing now, and it appears to be growing in popularity. There is actually some science behind the idea as well. A study at the Virginia Commonewith University in America in 2012 found that people who took a dog to work with them tended to experience less stress than those without a four-legged friend.
But can a working environment really operate well if people are ducking out to watch the swimming heats, a judo final, or to make sure Pepper and Daisy (they’re my cocker spaniels) haven’t used the bin for his own purposes?
The answer is….well it depends on who you ask probably as there is never a ‘one size fits all’ solution. If you run a call centre, having 90% of your staff off the phones for a couple of hours is not great for your customers or business. But if work can be put on hold for a short time so those who are interested can watch, then I don’t see the harm. For me, this is essentially another form of flexible working. As an employer, allowing staff a break for something they believe is important shows that you trust and value them – two of the biggest morale boosters for any employee.
So why not turn on the TV and give employees the opportunity to watch some of the action. You never know the benefits it could bring.