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Lead Your Team Managing

Why You Should Let Employees Watch the Olympics at Work

Olympics at work
Credit: Herbert Kratky/Shutterstock

With the Olympics in full swing, some businesses may notice some employees calling in "sick" more than usual, or being a little less productive in the office. Some sports fans and patriots have been anxiously awaiting certain events. Time differences can complicate things further, so die-hard Olympics fans are either going to be absent from work to catch their favorite athlete, or they may stream an event at work.

During the Super Bowl, many local businesses in Philadelphia closed early so their employees could go home and enjoy the game with their friends and family. Other businesses loosened their policies and let their employees pause a little bit at work to catch some plays.

An HR association benchmarked absence rates for more than 100 organizations and found that employee absences were 28 percent higher during the first quarter of 2010 (when the Vancouver Winter Olympics were happening) than during the first quarter of 2009 when the H1N1 flu scare was occurring.

Dave Weisbeck, chief strategy office for Visier, says whether or not a business should allow its employees to watch curling or short track speed skating during work hours depends on a few different factors.

"Doctors and nurses, for example, can't be entertained by a TV screen while safely doing their jobs. On the other hand, if your company fosters a workplace culture that promotes work-life balance and encourages its employees to speak up about the experiences they want to share with co-workers, you should consider allowing employees to watch during work hours," Weisbeck said.

Since the Olympics occur every four years, you might be able to write this off as a special event and not a new work policy. Weisbeck said that employees will likely appreciate the effort, and many may make the time up by the end of the week.

"If you allow your employees one or two hours at work to enjoy a game with co-workers, it's better than the alternative, which is losing an entire day of productivity and hurting workplace culture," said Weisbeck.

If, though, your employees are taking advantage of a loose employee leave policy, it might be time to accommodate live sporting events.

"Analyzing your workforce data helps to understand how time off improves or hurts your organization's productivity and whether the problem is a few individuals, one team or companywide," added Weisbeck. "If employees repeatedly take advantage of the system and ultimately hurt the bottom line of an organization, the leave-request policies should be tightened depending on the severity of the problem. On the other hand, taking away moments that are most important to your employees may risk departure and turnover in the long run."


Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and Business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.