The Olympic Dream – A HR Nightmare? (Guest Blog)
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As the country seeks to recover from yet more penalty shootout heartache and with hopes of a “BBQ summer” quickly being washed away, thoughts turn to the next event which may serve to raise the nation’s spirits.

In the absence of any further impromptu Royal Bank Holidays, the Olympics and Paralympics being hosted on these shores may just be the answer. With Great Britain’s athletes putting the finishing touches towards their preparation, employers and HR professionals would be well advised to do a little preparation of their own.

There are several potential issues to consider. Addressing these issues now and putting plans in place in advance of the Games starting will assist both employers and employees alike.

Handling holidays

One problem that could arise is where several members of staff seek to take leave at the same time during the Olympic Games, whether it is because they have tickets for the events, are volunteering at the Games or are simply seeking to flee from the hustle and bustle altogether.

For consistency managers and HR professionals should turn to their annual leave policy first and foremost for guidance, but this unique event may require a little bit more flexibility to be shown, creativity is key to any HR partnership. Would a ‘first come, first served’ policy be the best way to deal with any requests, or perhaps drawing names out of a hat for all those that have made requests. Given that the hosting of the Olympics is likely to be a once in a lifetime event, you may decide to grant all absence requests by absorbing the workload amongst the remaining staff where possible or seeking extensions of client deadlines to allow for the absence. As advocated by Courageous HR, it is important to treat any HR issue as a community issue. 

Whichever option the employer decides to use, it should be fair, consistently applied and transparent.

Addressing absenteeism

Employers may also see an increase in absenteeism amongst staff.   According to Cisco, 28% of employers in Sydney experienced higher levels of absenteeism when the Olympic Games were hosted there, and a recent survey showed that 1 in 4 employers expect higher rates of absenteeism during the London Olympics.  Sending out a gentle reminder in advance highlighting any sickness absence policy and holding return to work interviews after periods of sick leave may discourage staff from taking ‘sickies’ to watch key Olympic events. To avoid absenteeism it is also important to remember the HR strategy of encouraging people to see themselves as significant partners, not simply dispensable staff in your business.

Dealing with disruption

A further issue, particularly for employers based in and around the Olympic sites, is the disruption that staff may face trying to go about their normal daily working routines. The commute to and from work will no doubt be affected as visitors descend on the capital city, whether this is due to tube congestion or road closures. Work together with staff to pre-empt any problems. It may be worth helping staff to arrange an alternative route or travel method to get to and home from work. Consideration should also be given to allowing staff to work from home or altering start or finishing times so as to make the journey a little easier. Some added flexibility during what is bound to be a hectic time may well increase productivity and also enhance staff morale. Despite any efforts you go to it may inevitable that problems will arise, again it is possible to minimise these problems; ensure staff know who to contact and how to contact them if they are delayed or unable to get to work and communicate with your staff so you can re-distribute any essential work that they are unable to complete.

As the old saying goes, preparation is key and with some forward thinking, HR professionals will avoid any hurdles and enjoy the Games.

About the Author- Emma Cross, Senior Associate at Manchester law firm, Pannone. Emma specialises in employment law and believes in placing a focus on knowledge management as a tool to increase performance and profit.