“And they’re off!” No, not the horses – your employees. You can pretty much guarantee that the ‘race that stops the nation’ will also bring your workplace productivity to a grinding halt.
The Melbourne Cup is the perfect storm of an Australian institution that also takes place on a business day, says Steve Shepherd, an employment market analyst with HR and recruitment specialists Randstad. “I live in Melbourne, and even on Monday the traffic into work was half of what it usually is,” he says.
Many workers will take somewhere between a half-day and long weekend to celebrate the occasion. Rather than fight it, Shepherd encourages workplaces to embrace the event as a chance to build morale and engage staff.
“We know it’s going to happen, we know workers are going to be distracted or head off early,” he says. “It’s easier to control and manage employee behaviour when it’s coordinated and planned rather than haphazard.”
Many offices will host dress-up events, betting sweeps, picnics or work drinks so employees can take time to watch or listen to the race. No matter what your pick is, some things to bear in mind are keep it simple, keep it considerate and keep it responsible – a mantra that can apply to a wide-variety of office events.
It’s especially important to keep in mind that not everyone will be keen on day-of activities such as drinking or betting, so pressure should be low and the focus should be on bringing people together for a bit of fun.
“Enjoy the moment – a get-together shouldn’t be so much about the theme as the opportunity for people to get together and enjoy each other’s company,” Shepherd says. “Being able to have fun at work is important, so employers need to find that balance between giving employees a chance to engage at work, yet still respect the fact that it is a work day.”