The Rugby World Cup begins this week and the eyes of the nation will turn their attention eastward. Employees will hardly be able to ignore the excitement, but with attention so securely captured, how can HR Departments manage the risk of employee absenteeism and avoid a drop in productivity without killing the vibe? Well, there are a few steps you can take.
There is no doubt that Ireland, along with the 3 Home Nations of Scotland, Wales and England, will have millions of eyes following them. And given that Ireland will enter their opening fixture (v Scotland, Yokohama, Sept 22 at 08:45) as No 1 in the world, there is little chance of interest subsiding amidst the media circus.
The likelihood of a sharp spike in absenteeism is quite high. In 2015, when the previous Rugby World Cup was held in the UK, a Manchester-based employment law consultancy reported receiving 692 calls from employers seeking clarification on their rights because of incidents of absenteeism during the first week of the competition.
So, what can be done to ensure everything runs smoothly this time? Here are just a few suggestions.
- Set A Clear Policy
All employees appreciate clarity, so the first positive step to take is to make clear the way HR will view employee absenteeism during the Japan Rugby World Cup. So, make sure all of the company policies are up-to-date and clearly explains the consequences should anyone fail to turn up for work, or falsely call in sick. Then, make sure these policies are distributed amongst employees so everyone knows the lay of the land. After all, fore-warned is fore-armed.
The most important policies to check and distribute are:
- Holiday Policy
- Sickness Absence Policy
- Unauthorised Absence Policy
- Internet Monitoring / Social Media Policy
- Disciplinary Policy
It’s going to be impossible for staff to ignore the build-up on match days; so why fight it? By accommodating the wants of your teams, their high-spirits can be used to boost productivity on the day a game is set to be played. Arrange to show important games in work, thus encouraging employees to come in. Maybe even arrange to have early games shown before work begins – after all, many of the games are set to be played before 9am GMT. Of course, restrict such ‘treats’ to games involving the national team, though with an international workforce further allowances may need to be made.
Don’t be closed to the idea of negotiating a deal with staff. Irteland’s game with hosts Japan is set to take place at 11:15am. You could offer early lunches, extended lunches, half-days or a ‘game-stop’ agreement to allow staff see the game. But the deal would mean working late or very early, or remote work over the weekend. And speaking of ‘treats’, you could offer free breakfast to entice employees to come in earlier, order-in evening dinners for late working and even half-day allowances for others not necessarily needed around match time.
There may be a temptation to set strict rules and threaten serious punishment for those who breach the rules. This can be counterproductive. After all, like all global sporting events it’s a chance to boost the workplace. It is a golden opportunity to:
- celebrate diversity and personal passions
- break the ice with colleagues not familiar with the sporting culture
- build workplace relationships
- enhance teamwork and productivity
Getting tough by being inflexible and issuing threats is guarantees to ruin the atmosphere and, in the long run, damage talent retention. Giving in, for only a few hours on matchdays, can go a long way to improving retention.
Key Rugby World Cup 2019 Games:
Ireland v Scotland, Sept 22; v Japan, Sept 28; v Russia, Oct 3; v Samoa, Oct 12
England v Tonga, Sept 22; v USA, Sept 26; v Argentina, Oct 5; v France, Oct 12
Wales v Georgia, Sept 23; v Australia, Sept 29; v Fiji, Oct 9; v Uruguay, Oct 13
Scotland v Ireland, Sept 22; v Samoa, Sept 30; v Russia, Oct 9; v Japan, Oct 13
Quarter-Finals: Oct 19 & 20
Semi-Finals: Oct 26 & 27
3rd-Place: Nov 1
Final: Nov 2
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