Rio Olympics: Hurdles & Pitfalls

Albert Bargery, one of our Employment experts considers some of the employee management issues caused by the Rio Olympics.

With Team GB predicted to secure its biggest ever medal haul, and the “Super Saturday” athletes about to hit the track and field, the Rio Olympics have potential to be a major distraction from workplace productivity. For HR teams now briefed to work through the implications of the “Vote Leave” decision and where resource is already stretched by holiday leave, they could represent another unwelcome challenge.

But let’s remember, the Games are supposed to be fun and in their purest form a global celebration of human achievement and sporting endeavour. With that in mind we have put together some of the key management issues to consider.

Key points to remember:

  • Requests for annual leave will be higher as the Games occur in the holiday period
  • There could be an increase in the use of the internet and social media during working hours
  • Organisational absence policies will still apply

Managing attendance

Your organisation’s policies will continue to apply during this time. You may wish to remind staff of policies regarding sickness/attendance and the use of social networking and websites during working hours.

Employers should be vigilant in monitoring attendance levels during the Games, including levels of sickness or late attendance due to any “post event celebrations”. Unauthorised absence or patterns of absence could result in formal action being taken, and this should be communicated to staff. Of course, any employee found to be under the influence of alcohol could also be subject to disciplinary procedures.

Leaving aside potential misconduct, HR Managers should bear in mind the need to be fair and consistent with all staff when allowing some additional flexibility during the Games. This should be taken into account when allowing time off.


Whether or not you have any current flexible working practices, it may be something to consider, even as a temporary measure during the Games. You can keep the policy simple, perhaps adopting a ‘first come, first serve basis policy for booking leave, but it may help to draw up some guidelines.

Subject to business requirement, some employers have adopted a more flexible working day, allowing employees to come in a little later or finish earlier, provided the employees maintain their allotted hours. Permitting staff to swap shifts with your permission may also enable some to watch the Games.

Allowing staff to listen to or watch some events in the workplace may be another possible option. Why not plan for popular sporting events in advance – perhaps giving access to a TV during agreed times? It may also be possible to allow staff to take a break during popular events.

Employees who wish to take time off work around the time of Games, and those who are travelling to Rio to watch the games, should have already booked annual leave in the normal way. Those who are flying out should not have booked their flights until leave was granted. However, during the Games you may use your discretion and consider late requests for time off work.

And remember, not everyone is a sporting fan! Some employees may have no plans to take time off during the Games and may get fed up with all the fuss and any perceived favouritism shown to those with sporting interests. When considering requests for absence, managers should not forget that any temporary changes to the rules and policies should be applied consistently and in a non-discriminatory manner. Ensure that being able to watch the Games does not take priority over other reasons.

What does this mean to me?

The Rio Games, like all extended events in the sporting calendar present a potential challenge to workplace productivity. With due regard to your policies and procedures their impact can be minimised.

In some circumstances, you may be able to adopt a more flexible policy to accommodate requests for changes in working arrangements, or organising activities in the workplace as a means of boosting morale in these uncertain times.

Further information

To discuss the implications of this article or any other issues relating to workplace management and support, please contact Albert.

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