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Maintaining morale during the Olympics


Manage requests for time off during the Games well, and you’ll keep staff motivated in the long term.

The summer months are a time when motivation to be at work can suffer, as hot days can reduce productivity. Add the desire to attend or watch a major sporting event, such as the London 2012 Olympic or Paralympic Games, and workforce pressures rise.

As a manager, you will need to demonstrate flexibility, while making sure high-quality care is consistently delivered by ensuring nurses’ morale and motivation remain high.

Lack of flexibility can lead to increased staff absence coinciding with major sporting events. During the Sydney Olympic Games,

27% of all employees took annual leave, according to figures from British Telecom. Additionally, 28% of organisations reported a rise in staff absence.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development suggests that where employers pay specific attention to their employees’ outside interests, staff will be happy to go the extra mile. Therefore, if employers can be flexible at times of potentially high absence, they will be rewarded with higher productivity and prevent increases in workforce pressure.

You need to consider capacity when planning. Consider using approaches to autumn and winter pressures in advance.

Manage increased requests for annual leave by hours and days where possible. Negotiate with staff over the specific days they would like off to attend events rather than booking entire weeks.

Where possible, be flexible around shift patterns and support changes to accommodate specific needs. As a final option, temporary staff could be employed in the short term to provide continuity of service.

By adopting a flexible approach, you could use the Olympic Games as an opportunity to build on existing staff engagement to provide long-term benefits for all.

Rachel Wingfield is business development manager at the NHS East Midlands Leadership Academy

Generate and maintain high staff morale

  • Brainstorming: Engage with your teams when planning and encourage them to think of ideas to make their working environment fun. Their ideas may include team activities and delivery targets linked to Olympic themes, themed team-building exercises, decoration of rest areas and providing celebration food for key events.
  • Shift swapping: Offer employees opportunities to change shifts around events. This provides an informal, flexible approach to staffing where 24-hour care is required.
  • Flexible working: Where possible, consider allowing staff to start later or finish earlier to allow them access to events. Be flexible with lunch patterns and offer extended lunch breaks, with the agreement that time owed will be made up on a later shift.
  • On-site access to events: Provide a TV in the rest room or allow staff access to areas where a TV will be on for popular events. Provide radios in staff areas.

Readers' comments (10)

  • We have had our annual leave cancelled 'in case there is an emergency'.

    We don't get 'temporary' staff in when we are normally short-staffed so doubt they will allow it for the Olympics.

    We don't have a restroom. Perhaps we can watch our preferred games at the bedside with the patients, after all we have nothing else to do all day.

    Flexible working - yeah, why not. Excuse me sister but can I finish at 1pm today as I want to watch the badminton - yes, of course, we will manage with two of us - go and have fun.

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  • I was sent home by my boss to go and watch a previous royal wedding even though it hadn't crossed my mind to ask for time off but she had already arranged cover for me so that i didn't miss any of it! it is thoughtful gestures such as this which make such a difference.

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  • Wonder how much this person gets paid? Band 8? Higher? I hope so, she'll need the money for the commute from cloud-cuckoo land to work.
    Then again, if you drive a desk whilst going to endless meetings about 'synergy' ( with free food and drink thrown in. God forbid that the higher-ups have to pay for their lunches) then the task of getting a day off here or there would be simple as your job probably makes no difference to anyone in the organisation apart from yourself, hence the utterly useless idea of 'delivery targets linked to Olympic themes'.
    As from today, I'll be 'delivering' my low-molecular heparin by throwing the needle from 70 meters away ( after a good run-up), getting supplies from a high shelf using the Fosbury flop, shot-putting the meds into the patients mouth from the far end of the unit and will be insisting that all the students and Band 5's have to wear beach volleyball kits ( but not the blokes, far too creepy with those little tank tops). I'll arrange a marathon by having the wards furthest apart ring the MET team one after another. The constipated patient who passes the largest stool will be awarded the brown medal, renal failure with the biggest dialysis gets the yellow medal and the bile- green for the quickest cholysystectomy performed ( with separate classes for open and laprascopics) The 100metres will be performed by the Matrons when you ask for help to cover the ward so you can GO AND WATCH THE EFFING OLYMPICS!

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  • Don't want to put a dampener on this superb idea but isn't this just a tad unfair on those who don't want to watch the Olympics. Are we seriously going to be asked to swap shifts and sit back while our colleagues have extended lunch-breaks, start and finish work when they want and have extra days off.

    I don't think so.

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  • team spirit!

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  • I would rather have had my planned holiday with my partner, but before sign off, staff left so business needs made that impossible. Oh and just to make it "better" why not put me on nights, so he has to creep around after sleeping alone..

    Olympic watching..mmmmm

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  • surely there will be enough repeats of all the olympic events on tv to suit everybody's schedule. for those who have tickets to see events alive they should be able to arrange the time off with colleague or the person in charge of off duty.

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  • tinkerbell

    Will the 'Learderhip Academy' also be doing courses on how to maintain morale during ascot, wimbledom, world cup, FA cup, knitting championships, oragami and flower arranging and days off to explore whether or not to join the WRVS?

    Consideration should also be given to those expecting a parcel delivery.

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  • tinkerbell | 29-Jul-2012 9:16 pm

    my hospital management tried to encourage/make us to do all of these as they said we made better nurses if we were good all rounders and got out a bit! However, when it came to getting the time off it was an entirely different matter. we were met with enthusiasm when we requested the time off initially for courses and once we had enrolled and paid all hard-earned money, and some courses were very costly, we found we were unable to attend them regularly because those nurses with children always got first priority for all off duty! On some courses it is very hard to catch up if you miss too many sessions.

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  • tinkerbell

    Yes, my attempts to join a group to improve my guitar playing skills over past 20 years or more have failed miserably. I have never been able to get the same day off every week and so remained in nursing. Hence i have never moved much beyond playing the same tune, well different tunes, that seem to all sound the same. A couple of male nursing colleagues have tried to show me some new techniques apart from strumming over the years but i am still far off from getting an audition with the Dixie Chicks.

    I am now doing an online guitar course and also maybe need to get out more.

    I did attend a group course, once for an hour. They appeared to be attempting to play the 'flight of the bumble bee'. I left feeling that i had gone in above my competency level especially after the tutor said 'have you ever thought about giving it a dusting?'. Oh alright I'll get me coat.

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