Considering the fact that employers saw around 2.7 million workers voluntarily leave their jobs at the end of June 2015, efforts to boost employee engagement have increased dramatically. Since it’s impossible for employers to make their workers enjoy their day jobs, they have been looking for other means of increasing employee happiness; sports seems to be the winner, and not necessarily in the way you might think.
When people hear employee engagement and office sports, their heads are usually filled with mandated group sporting events outside of the office, such as corporate retreats to ropes courses or soccer stadiums where they’re split into teams and encouraged to work together.
Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at workforce management software company Kronos Inc., had a different idea in mind: by studying workplace issues and the best ways employers can manage their staff, she came to the realization that many employees miss or are late to work due to public sporting events — football, soccer, baseball, you name it. She claims that the best way to combat these absences (not to mention the productivity dip that occurs when people do show up, but are constantly checking their phones for updates) is to incorporate the sporting events into the workplace culture, either by displaying it on the breakroom TV or establishing an office-watch party with food provided.
“It can definitely be a tool to stimulate camaraderie, just as would be departments having gatherings during the holiday season, or doing a charity event together,” Maroney said. “All these things engage people at work and can make people feel like they’re part of something that’s a little bigger than just getting the job done.”
Apparently, she might be onto something. A study done in March of this year showed that 79% of employees believe having access to sporting events in the office “greatly improves their levels of engagement at work.” The same study also found that 73% of workers say are happy to go to work when they can participate in office sports bracket contests (like March Madness). It makes sense to Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of Chicago-based staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network:
“It empowers employees because they don’t have to sneak around to participate in something they enjoy,” he said. “It also makes our clients feel valued. We want them to know we appreciate our relationships with them. It helps builds trust.”
However, this doesn’t discredit the positive impact of the most common interpretation of corporate sports events. In fact, the Royal Bank of Scotland has seen profound results in its workers after having initiated a cycling challenge for charity in 2016. That year, more than 1,200 staff made the five day, 500-mile trek from the bank’s Bishopsgate office in London to its headquarters in Edinburgh.
“We do an annual staff survey where we track engagement and we have seen our figures go up a lot,” explained RBS employee campaign manager Clódagh McAteer.
There is more pride within the organization, more engagement and our employees are more active, fitter and healthier.”
However, not everyone in the office is going to necessarily be able to tolerate that kind of physical exertion. Tennis, on the other hand, knows no age limit and is exceptionally low-impact; doubles encourages teamwork and tournaments ensure that everyone has a chance to play, while also getting their blood pumping. In fact, playing tennis for fun for half an hour can burn 169 calories in women, and 208 in men — as your staff run or jog across the court, they’ll be engaging with each other, staying healthy, and having fun.