A summer of sporting fever: How employers can help strike a work-life balance for employees

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The EURO 2024 Championship starts in Germany on Friday 14 June. With both England and Scotland qualifying for the tournament, there will be a lot of interest from the UK workforce in watching their teams compete, not to mention fans of other countries from across Europe who work in the UK. In addition to EURO 2024, there is also the Paris Olympics which starts on Friday 26 July, which much like the Euros will also capture the imagination of the UK workforce.

So, what can employers do to best manage attendance and performance while such prominent sporting events are taking place during the working day?

Home working/ flexitime arrangements

If an employer operates flexitime arrangements, employees may be able to adjust their working hours without there being a detriment to their working time. Similarly, if employees are trusted to work from home during their regular working pattern, allowing them to work from home on key days can help minimise disruption.

Annual leave

Requests for annual leave should be dealt with in the usual way and should be considered fairly.

Workplace viewing areas

If possible, an employer could designate communal areas with screens to watch important matches or Olympic events during work breaks. Creating workplace viewing areas allows employees to enjoy the spectacle without negatively affecting productivity or distracting others. This can also provide an opportunity for colleagues to socialise with people from other departments and teams which helps build a positive working environment.

Manage absences appropriately

If an employee calls in sick on a key day, the absence should be taken at face value. However, if there is evidence of an employee incorrectly using the absence policy for other reasons, the matter should be investigated to see if any misconduct has occurred. This should include an investigation meeting with the employee to establish the real reason for the absence. If there is any evidence to support a view that the employee has misled their employer about the reasons for their absence, a disciplinary process may need to be followed.

Encourage open communication

Creating an atmosphere of open communication is crucial. Encourage employees to discuss their interest in the sporting events and any potential conflicts with work schedules. By fostering open dialogue, an employer can better understand their employees’ wishes and look to find solutions that work for both the business and the employee.

These periods of sporting interest, particularly during the traditional working hours of 9am to 5pm, are cyclical and tend to crop up during the summer period most years, whether that be an international football tournament, the Olympics, the Ashes or Wimbledon. It is worth employers keeping an eye on what’s coming up in the calendar and working with employees to create a plan that works for everyone.

When planning for big sporting events in the workplace employers should also keep in mind that not everyone will be supporting the same team or nation. To keep any activities as inclusive as possible, employers should celebrate the event itself and not just the participation of one particular team or nation, to avoid anyone being treated differently or feeling excluded in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Employers may also want to make allowances for people who have no interest in sporting events to still be able to enjoy the same amount of downtime as those who are taking the opportunity to watch the events.

Large sporting events such as the EURO 2024 and the Olympics this summer really do capture the hearts and minds of employees, helping to create a feel-good factor and camaraderie in the workplace, so by considering the above steps employers can ensure this is achieved without having an adverse impact on productivity.

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