At the time of writing, the Olympics were less than a month away, and the excitement was building as many people, including employees, realise their dream of seeing athletes from around the world compete against each other in their capital city.

The problem

But it’s not all fun and games for everyone. With the Games comes the inevitable headache for employers of dealing with staff absenteeism, low productivity, and generally ensuring there are enough employees in the office to continue running the business.

These issues are likely to be caused by two types of employee:

– Those who have planned to take time off because they are a spectator or a volunteer (if selected as a Games Maker);

– Those who have no plans to take time off and stream the games at work, or who come down with the 24 hour cold that conveniently comes at the same time as the 100m men’s final

Regardless of the reason, your company could be undermanned over this period or suffer from lower than expected productivity levels and you need to take the appropriate action.

What can an employer do to minimise the impact?

The best piece of advice is plan ahead and be flexible.

Plan ahead

As an employer, it’s never too early to plan for the Olympics, but it can be too late. There is however still time. Make sure you know your company’s priorities – is this summer going to be a particularly busy period for you?

– Ask your employees what their plans for the Games are. If you know what they are doing it makes it easier for you to plan ahead and ensure that the office is manned to a sufficient level to cover the summer period.

– Develop a clear, fair and consistent policy for your employees when booking time off. For example, you could detail specific days/weeks when the office needs to be fully manned, thus preventing any holidays being taken for that period.

– Prepare for any travel disruptions. Is your nearest tube/train station particularly affected by the Games? Will nearby train/tube lines disrupted during this period? If so, plan other ways your employees could get to work.

Be flexible

During the Games, it becomes more important than ever to be flexible. You won’t gain many “brownie points” from your employees if you force them to come to work at 9am everyday if travel disruption means they take twice as long to get in to work.   Possible measures you could take are:

–          Altered start and finish times to the day, avoiding peak times when an event is being held nearby;

–          Providing company laptops/Blackberries to allow your employees to work from home;

–          Providing a TV in the work place where your employees can watch the Games in their breaks

Above all, remember that the Games may never return to London again in the near future, so allow your employees to enjoy them.

How can Waterfront help you?   If you need advice with drafting policies to cover time off over the Games or concerning home working arrangements, contact one of our HR specialists in the employment law team.

Many thanks to our summer placement student, Vincent Livesey, for preparing this blog.  We wish him all the best with his exams and beyond!