By Carol Smith, Senior Employment Consultant At Croner

With Olympic fever beginning to grip the nation many employees up and down the country are almost certainly planning how they can make the most of this historic occasion, while some employers are concerned about potential absenteeism affecting business.


Consider realistically what is likely to happen and how it may affect your business — and start to plan your way around possible difficulties now. You could take a purely logical approach and insist that if anyone wishes to take time off work to watch the Olympics, then they must plan and book their holidays accordingly because you will not allow additional time off.

This may well work for the devotees of the Games who have obtained tickets and therefore know exactly when they will need time off work, but other people may not develop an enthusiasm until the Games start. They will include people who watch a lot of sport on television as well as those who, though not great sport watchers, nevertheless want to watch events in which UK competitors are within reach of medals. They may feel that throwing a “sickie” is not all that bad in the circumstances. Ideally discuss the whole issue of Olympics absence with your employees or their representatives now.

Try to assess the interest even at this early stage. If it appears that many employees will want time off during the events, could you cope? Could you make arrangements with the not-so-keen people to provide adequate cover in some way, possibly with a balancing reward? If not, how will you allocate holiday priorities? On the basis of length of service, first come, first served, or ballot?

Anyone who is keen to take their holidays during the Olympic period will be greatly disappointed if they fail to get permission, so consider what this may do for their morale and therefore their performance during that time. Unless their countrymen or women are in the final medal stages, most people are likely to be satisfied with watching the day’s highlights on evening television.

Should we provide a TV?

On the surface this may seem an attractive idea, but a closer look reveals problems. Where would you put it and, more importantly, when would you have it switched on? If it is on all the time, little work will get done and mistakes are likely to occur, suggesting that you might just as well send your employees home.

The problem with smart phones and other devices

A radio with earplugs would allow someone with a repetitive job to listen to the Olympics throughout the working day. Smart phones can access the Internet, albeit at sometimes high costs. But the lucky employees are those whose work involves using computers connected to the Internet.

If employees use these devices to follow the Olympics during work time, then three problems can arise. First, they may be wasting the employer’s time; second, they may make mistakes since their minds will not be fully on their job; and third, these mistakes may cause accidents to themselves, to others or to customers who receive their output.

Employees may be reluctant to recognise these problems, therefore you will have to spell them out clearly and point out, as you surely must, that if they are supposed to be working then they must not at the same time access broadcasts. This may appear mean, so try to offer some remedy. Employees who are not attending the Olympics will probably just need to know what is happening, so perhaps you could provide them with an hourly update by Intranet, tannoy or some other means.


Any gold medals won by UK athletes are likely to lift the spirits of the nation — and the consumption of celebratory alcohol. Do remind your employees to take care not to over-indulge, and in turn watch out for people who attend work while apparently still affected by alcohol. They should not be allowed to work if their judgment is likely to be impaired, and you may feel it necessary to take disciplinary action against them.

Workers who are not interested in sport

When making all these arrangements, do not ignore the people who have little interest in sport and the Olympics. Throughout your planning consider how arrangements you make will affect them. If you are giving benefits to sport lovers, you should really do something of benefit to the others. But if this seems difficult, why not engage every employee in doing something to commemorate the Olympics?

Whatever path you take, engage your employees in planning to deal with issues created by the Olympics so that problems may be minimised and everyone can be happy and enjoy the event.

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