Does watching the Olympics improve employee performance?

by John Hilton08 Aug 2016
Almost nine out of 10 (87%) Australian and New Zealand HR managers say it’s likely that at least one of their employees will call in sick the day after a major sporting event.

In fact, Aussies and Kiwis are at the top of an international list compiled by Robert Half which also includes Brazil (84%), Chile (80%), Austria (78%), Germany (76%) and Switzerland (75%).

On the other end of the spectrum, The Netherlands (61%) was the least likely to have their employees call in sick.
However, almost two-thirds (62%) of New Zealand HR managers say hosting company events to watch major sporting competitions increases employee engagement.
Moreover, 43% believe it has a positive effect on motivation levels and 29% believe such company events increase employee loyalty.

Megan Alexander, General Manager Robert Half Asia Pacific, said Kiwis love their sport, however it’s important to not let big sporting events disrupt employee performance.

“While time differences might not always work in New Zealand’s advantage, workplace absences and distractions can place tremendous pressure on a company’s productivity levels,” added Alexander.

“To help mitigate this, businesses often host company events to watch major sporting competitions. While watching sports during business hours can impact a company’s workplace productivity, organisations increasingly understand the positive impact these activities have on staff morale.

“Having an engaged and motivated workforce that recognises the importance of team spirit can have a significant influence on achieving company goals which ultimately improves a company’s bottom line.”

Alexander added that significant sporting competitions which are of national interest are also an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate why they are an employer of choice.

“Showing flexibility towards staff on special occasions, whether it is allowing staff to come in a bit later, taking a longer lunch break or leaving early, shows the business understands and appreciates its workforce,” said Alexander.

Moreover, Joyce Maroney, director at The Workforce Institute at Kronos said there are very few events that capture the world’s attention like the Olympics.

Despite an employer’s best attempts to prohibit employees from watching major sporting events live, there is plenty of proof that employees will find a way through online streaming, and other means, Maroney said.

“Instead of competing for their employees’ attention, and potentially harming engagement in the process, employers can take this opportunity to build camaraderie and boost engagement through employee appreciation,” Maroney added.

“Set up a viewing party in the breakroom. Create a friendly Olympic-themed competition between your global offices. Have open conversations with employees to adjust their work schedules.

“Simply put: embracing the Olympics at work can help reduce the risk of unplanned absence, loss of productivity, and distractions on the job.”

Related stories:
Why business leaders should take inspiration from sport