We know Australian athletes earn their stripes. But when it comes to calling in sick after a major sporting event, Aussie employees top the leaderboard. How should HR handle these sports-related sick days?
A recent survey found that Australian workers are calling in sick more frequently than their international counterparts – nine in 10 HR managers say it’s likely one or more employees will chuck a sickie the day after a major sporting event.
The survey, conducted by Robert Half, includes responses from nearly 1600 HR managers from 12 countries, including Australia. The survey is part of the organisation’s annual international workplace survey, which looks at workplace trends.
“Australians love their sport,” acknowledges David Jones, senior managing director for Robert Half Asia Pacific. “However, it’s important not to let the sporting season fever disrupt employee performance.”
Time differences are a major culprit, says Jones, although it’s hard to measure other factors such as feelings of anxiety before a big match and the agony of defeat afterwards. Regardless of the cause, almost 90 per cent of Australian human resources managers expect to field more calls from employees taking a sickie following a major sporting event.
Australia is followed by Brazil, Chile, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Of those surveyed, the Netherlands is least likely to have employees calling in sick, with only 61 per cent of human resources managers reporting such activity.
Go for gold and get employees involved
Companies that can embrace their employees’ passion for athletics fare better than those who try to quash it, says Jones. This is especially true for sporting events that hold national and international significance.
Almost half of respondents say hosting company events to watch sporting matches increases employee engagement, and 40 per cent say it improves employee motivation. What’s more, one-third say company events centred around sports increases employee loyalty.
There are run-on benefits as well. No discussion about sports in the workplace would be complete without a mention of team spirit. It’s also an opportunity for workplaces to show they can be flexible and understand other aspects of employees’ lives that they might feel strongly about – such as sport.
“While watching sporting events during business hours can impact a company’s workplace productivity, organisations increasingly understand the added value of such events,” says Jones. “Allowing staff to come in later or leave a bit early so they can watch a game is an ideal way to position a company as an employer of choice.”
With the Olympics well underway and other high-profile sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup just around the corner, one thing is for sure: Australian workplaces shouldn’t have to compete with the world’s best athletes.
Embracing people’s love of sports in the workplace can save human resources some grief down the line, and in return employers and managers can expect to be rewarded with less absenteeism and presenteeism.