Spring training is a time where denizens of the Valley and country come to cheer on their favorite teams. It’s an out-of-this-world experience, but, sometimes, it can be a distraction, especially at work.
“We’re very fortunate in the Valley to have probably between a dozen and 15 games going on a day,” says Chris Meister, attorney with the Phoenix offices of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, and Stewart, P.C. However. “Whether it’s employees following the games online or deciding that’s a good reason to play hooky, that’s something that may distract from their day-to-day job duties.”
While there are other events going on this month like March Madness that could keep employees distracted, spring training may lead to more absences as employees take the day off or call in sick to catch a game.
Meister states that if you don’t regulate your employees’ time-off policy, then there’s not much you can do if they’re using it to go to a game. Make sure, he adds, that they are following appropriate procedures for requesting the time off.
Many employers don’t mind spring training but want to utilize it so that it strengthens the workplace and doesn’t distract. To those employers, Meister suggests “to use these types of events as a team-building opportunity.”
Take a day or afternoon off, and take your employees to a game, he says. Or, if that becomes inconvenient, broadcast the game from the conference room and dedicate some work time to watching it as a reward.
By doing so, you’ll strengthen morale and let them enjoy the experience, and enable them to focus more during other work periods.
You’ll balance the need to be both an enjoyable workplace and a thriving business, Meister says.
If there’s one thing that Meister recommends to employers during spring training season, it would be consistency.
If an employer doesn’t want spring training to interfere with policies for Internet usage or metrics for productivity, employers should have a policy that’s been consistently enforced throughout the year, he adds.
“If all of a sudden you start cracking down… you run the risk of the uneven enforcement disproportionately affecting a particular group, and that’s where you get into legal trouble,” Meister cautions.
According to him, if there’s a certain demographic that really enjoys spring training, and you focus on monitoring that and their productivity, but you don’t do the same for other demographics or groups, including around the holidays, you run the risk of getting into trouble.
And be careful of favoritism: if you let one group watch all the baseball they want, but don’t allow a different group the same privileges for other events that they may enjoy, you may unintentionally be committing what’s perceived as favoritism towards a particular group in the office.
“You always want to be thinking about your past practices and keeping them in the back of your mind [how they may be perceived,]” says Meister.
So, if you run a business where productivity is extremely important, it’s essential to be consistent in enforcing those policies, he states.
It’s an obvious fact that workplace rules need to be enforced, says Meister.
There’s a variety of ways to do so; however, “every workplace is different and so they have to think about what motivates them,” he states.
Without a doubt, communication goes a long way.
“Just communicate with the team,” Meister says.
According to him, if you say something along the lines of “Listen, we all love this time of year… we need to work hard to get our jobs done so then you can go and enjoy these things,” it’ll be a tremendous help.
“Obviously, the last thing an employer wants to do is have a workforce that perceives coming to work every day as a negative experience,” he adds.
So, remember: communication, consistency, and incorporation (when you can) of these events into the workplace for your employees. Do this, and you’ll knock this time of year out of the park as well.
“Go Cubs, and go Diamondbacks!” Meister concludes.