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Be a Good Sport This Summer...

08/07/2016 12:10 | Updated 08 July 2016

With a great line-up of sporting events planned for this summer, businesses need to wise up as some of the staff will be wanting to tune in to these during the working day. Managers will not only have to keep their staff motivated during this time, but also ensure that productivity levels don't drop. In my experience, it's much more effective to implement a truly flexible, anywhere-working policy to allow your teams to work around the big sporting events, rather than try to insist they attend the office from 9 till 5 every day. So my advice would be, take advantage of flexible working.

A recent HR survey found that 73% of UK employers think staff will call in sick the day after a Euro 2016 Championship game, with German employees most likely to skip work (79%), followed by French (69%) and Belgian (63%) supporters following suit. But interestingly, almost 90% of HR Directors feel that sporting events increase employee engagement levels and staff motivation. So the clear way forward is to find a way to incorporate the summer of sport into an accepted way of working.

Before the London 2012 Olympics, London mayor at the time, Boris Johnson, claimed that the games would be "a skiver's paradise". But a flexible approach from the UK's workplaces proved him wrong. In fact, managers who allowed flexible working hours, around 18% of those questioned, actively disagreed with the mayor, saying that "the event nurtured a more positive perception of working from home", generating long-term benefits for the organisation. And, 41% of managers who allowed staff to watch the Olympics in the office reported that employees bonded over the joy of a shared national experience, morale went up and, most importantly, productivity increased.

So, with Euro 2016 and Wimbledon upon us, and Rio 2016 just around the corner, what's the solution?

1. Harness the productivity of sporting prowess
A survey of 1,100 ILM members found almost a third said productivity would improve if staff could watch sport in offices. Whether your team is supporting Team GB, Wales, or even Iceland, use the matches, races, and games as an opportunity to bring your team together. Send around internal memos promising a team viewing party (as long as the team has completed all their work). It's amazing how productive people can be when there is a reward; that reward can be watching their team win, or enjoying some strawberries and cream as they do so. The important thing is that the emphasis is on the team collaborating to complete all work in time, and enjoying the benefit together.

2. Make anywhere-working the norm

Flexible working, both in terms of time and location, functions best when it is built into the ethos and workflows of an organisation. Don't just let people work from home during the summer, implement a true and fair flexible working policy for everyone all year round. That way it's truly embedded, and any issues have been ironed out before the fun and games start.

3. Get the tech right

You can only be as effective working from anywhere as would be in the office if you have the right solutions at your fingertips. For many organisations, that means making mission-critical solutions available in the cloud, such as your email and diary in Office 365, and your phone as VoIP via Skype for Business. Evidence shows that dispersed teams are most productive when they can see each other through video collaboration. If you suspect that you are going to have a sharp rise in the number of anywhere workers this summer, think about solutions that offer a degree of flexibility through 'cloud bursting', to provide capacity on an ad hoc basis (ie. around the Euro finals).

So now you know why you should embrace anywhere-working in addition to supplying umbrellas and strawberries to your staff this summer of sport. In addition to that, these handy pointers will set you off on the right course for being a good sport this summer:

1. Set the ground rules - A clear and concise policy towards flexible working around sports fixtures should be circulated internally - to encourage minimal 'sick notes' through the summer

2. Keep it global - Make sure you don't just offer exceptions for home team fixtures, apply the policy to all countries and nationalities

3. Trust your teammates - Just because there is sport on, don't feel like you have to hound your employees to keep working. Trust them to output their same level of productivity as you would if they were working outside the office on any other day

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