Firms should allow flexi time/workspace for sports enthusiast employees: Regus

Mumbai, Aug 13, 2013: With the English Premier League, Indian Badminton League, Hockey Asia Cup, and the US Open scheduled to start later this month; employers are probably already having sleepless nights. Their uneasiness is not without reason. Many sports-loving employees – after staying up late to watch these events – tend to either report sick or reach late at work.

Luxemburg-based Regus, the global leader in providing flexible office space across 1,500 locations, has a few suggestions to Indian corporates to tide over this mini-crisis.

Indian employers, Regus says, should first consider being open and talking to employees about the need to balance personal hobbies such as sports with professional duties. In fact, employers should ask their staff for their own suggestions for doing this.

According to Regus, it would also a good idea to install TV sets in common areas so that employees could watch key games – perhaps even after working hours, to encourage general bonhomie and increase socialization. Mr. Sahil Verma, Chief Operating Officer – India, Regus, says, “A televised sports event is a great opportunity to bond with employees. An after-work game and a little party can improve employee morale manifold and eventually lead to better productivity.”

The third suggestion for local employers pertains to flexibility of work-timings and place of work. Regus advocates that companies may encourage employees to take responsibility for their work, which means not only do companies allow employees to take time off for a key match (if, of course, they make up for the work later) but also offer more flexibility over where they work.

Mr. Verma explains, “The logic is, if employees can do their jobs closer home, they waste less time commuting and have more time for both work and other interests. Most people now have the technology to do their jobs at nearby business centres and satellite offices, instead of having to commute to faraway offices.”

At Regus, it has been seen that those sports addicts who watch matches till midnight actually perform better at work the next day, if they are allowed to come for work slightly later. “We see merit in introducing more flexible working practices. Giving employees more choice over their hours helps them juggle work and life priorities, and actually improves motivation”, Verma added.

Regus’ fourth advice is to introduce a quantum change in the performance management system, so that it measures and rewards output, and not mere hours spent at the desk.

It is perhaps time that local companies start maintaining an annual sports calendar to plan better strategies for dealing with cricket fever and other assorted sporting ailments.

While mega sports events do create many business opportunities for India Inc, these also distract staff. During popular tournaments, employers regularly complain about staff being glued on to TV sets late into the night and coming to work exhausted. It was estimated that the ICC World Cup held in 2011 in India and Sri Lanka led to a productivity loss of 768 million man hours. In a pre-tournament survey, almost one in four people (23%) said they would call in sick to watch the matches.

According to Mr Verma, "If employers just sit back during sports events and hope that staff will work as usual, they can face serious productivity slumps – not just from people calling in sick, but from people continuously stopping work to check scores online. Instead, employers should use these events to improve their performance management practices and employee morale, in ways that could boost productivity all year round."

Mr. Verma continues, "Flexible working practices and managing by output are effective tools for navigating events like cricket, football, hockey World Cups. These practices bring all-year-round benefits, with 72% of businesses globally saying flexible working leads directly to increased productivity. As a leader in flexible working practices, Regus is seeing more and more customers worldwide give staff choice over where and how they work, and they're seeing rises in motivation and productivity as a result."