How to score a wellbeing goal

Major sporting events, such as the Football World Cup, can offer entertainment and conversation for employees. If handled well, these events can have a positive impact in the workplace. So, with the 2018 World Cup kicking off on 14 June, Tom Moyes, a Partner at Blacks Solicitors, looks at how employers can score a workplace wellbeing goal.

Tom Moyes, Partner at Blacks Solicitors LLP.

Some of the football matches are likely to clash with normal office hours, which may give rise to the following issues:

Requests for annual leave to watch the matches;

Increase in absenteeism;

Using sporting websites during work hours; and/or

Taking long lunch breaks.

So, how can employers manage these issues?

Employers can use the World Cup as an opportunity to engage and motivate employees. Taking advantage of the chance to offer goodwill gestures to staff may in fact benefit the company long term. It is important that the needs of the business are balanced with the interests of those individuals wishing to follow the World Cup. Staff should be made aware of any agreements or policies put in place in relation to the World Cup, prior to the event starting. Five potential options which employers may wish to consider are set out below.

Dealing with requests for leave and ‘sick’ days

The Company should have an annual leave policy which gives guidance on booking time off. Employees should be reminded of the policy for requesting leave. For example, it may be that holiday requests are on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. This is important in the event that a large number of competing requests arise on a day that a popular football team are playing. It is important to remember that all requests for leave should be considered fairly by employers, with a consistent approach taken alongside other major sporting events.

As well as annual leave requests, it is possible that the number of sickness-related absences increase during the period of the World Cup, due to the watching of matches and alcohol over-consumption. It may be helpful to re-circulate the company’s sickness policy to remind employees of the consequences of any unauthorised absences, particularly in relation to sporting events.

Employers should consider other options, for example those outlined below, to incorporate the event into the work place. This could help lower the number of requests for leave and unauthorised absences.

Flexible working hours

If a match takes place during working hours, an option may be to agree a flexible-working day for employees. This can allow employees to attend work later or finish work earlier, with an expectation that any time taken off is to be made back up. Another possibility is to give employees an extended lunch hour to watch a match, by which they can make up the time by staying later that day.

Permitting this flexibility allows employees to watch the match outside their workable hours. This means that when employees are working, they’re able to concentrate and can commit to a higher level of productivity.

Watch at work

If a match falls on a working day, a potential method is to allow employees to watch the match. This may be achieved by streaming the match in a communal area. A TV licence would be required. Employers should consider the time of day that this would take place, for example it may be shown during an extended lunch hour, as suggested above.

An alternative is to allow employees to watch or listen to the match on a work device (computer) or on an employee’s own mobile device. Having these facilities in place may have a positive impact on the long-term engagement and motivation of employees. There are, however, issues to consider with this option.

If watching during work hours, then employers should think about the potential effect on employee’s work and the need to maintain productivity. It is questionable how much work would be completed by an employee who is watching the match. It is important to strike a balance to ensure both employees and employers are happy.

Events in the work place

There are many ways in which the World Cup event can be acknowledged within the work place. One example is to hold an office-wide sweepstake or competition on which country will win. This exercise can be useful for team-building and can provide discussion within the office.

A simple example is to allow a relaxed dress code on match days, allowing employees to wear football shirts. This could even be done in conjunction with a charity event and you could suggest that everyone brings in £1 if they choose to wear a football shirt.

Social events outside of work

The World Cup may also be used as an opportunity to hold social events outside the working environment. Some examples include: hosting a football sporting event incorporating all of the countries that play in the World Cup, organising a meet-up at a location that screen the match or holding a celebration/commiseration for when England win/get knocked out of the World Cup.

An event outside of work may give employees something to look forward to at the end of the working week, helping to improve their productivity throughout the week. Social events also give employees the opportunity to get to know one another outside the office environment. This may then help to create a positive work environment where employees feel comfortable.

Other considerations

It is important that employers do not discriminate against employees. For example, if offering arrangements for England fans, then corresponding arrangements should be in place for those who are fans of other countries.

Employers may wish to remind employees of the standards of behaviour that is expected of them and the disciplinary procedures that are in place if they fail to do so. This may be particularly relevant to working under the influence of alcohol.

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