Business can tap into Murray Mania – by cracking out Pimm’s and strawberries for staff

by Scott Douglas

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Tennis fan cheers on Andy MurrayThis article first appeared in the Daily Record’s Edinburgh Now supplement on Wednesday, July 3.

I suspect businesses across Scotland are going to see productivity fall off a cliff today when Andy Murray steps onto the lush grass of Wimbledon for his much anticipated quarter final.

If, as expected, he powers his way past his latest opponent, then his semi-final on Friday is likely to put a similar dent in the output of the country’s shops, offices and other places of work.

When the Dunblane-born athlete took to the turf against Roger Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final, for many Scots it was more about hope than expectations. Despite patriotic flag-waving, many still saw Murray as dour and given to bouts of petulance.

Public tears, Olympic gold and a first Grand Slam title have transformed perceptions. The 2013 Murray isn’t just a homegrown talent to be dutifully cheered. He is now a figure who is admired, revered and genuinely loved.

When was the last time Scotland had a popular world-beater in any of the sports which truly captures the public imagination? Sir Chris Hoy is an absolute sporting legend, but track cycling remains a barely understood minority pursuit next to Wimbledon.

Since the national football team has failed to reach the final stages of a World Cup or European Championship since 1998, Scotland hasn’t really had a generation-defining, sporting cause to rally round.

New look Murray’s march to a potential centre court showdown with his old friend Novak Djokovic feels very much like it could become the stuff of legend.

If that’s the case, then businesses are going to have their own epic tussle on their hands – how to accommodate the demand from staff to follow his progress.

Which camp will your business fall into?

The kind that puts everything on hold and turns each match into an extended staff break with strawberries and cream laid on, in the hope of generating long-lasting goodwill?

Or the kind where watching televised sporting events is frowned on and only those with the foresight to have booked time off will be able to follow coverage of Murray’s match as it happens, with everyone else catching up on the edited highlights after hours?

Reality is that everyone who wants to follow Murray’s progress will be doing so on their PCs and mobile phones or other portable devices – whether their bosses want them to or not.

But with a national occasion this big, why turn workers into surreptitious skivers?

At the very least businesses could score by having a TV or radio on in the background or playing in staff rooms and break areas. Those with foresight may already have flexible working arrangements which allow staff to make up time in other ways on other days.

A year on from the Olympics we know the feel good spin offs generated by Team GB helped lift morale at desks and workstations for weeks and maybe even months afterwards.

There’s plenty of research to suggest that shared sporting moments can lift the mood of workers and increase productivity. Discussing big sporting moments and occasions also generates much more than just water cooler chat.

Those conversation can break down barriers between staff and managers, encourage teamwork and collaboration and even help cement long-lasting and profitable relationships with clients and customers.

If the years since the 2008 credit crunch have felt tough for business people, remember they’ve been hard years for workers as well in a climate of job threats, pay freezes and loss of benefits.

Against that backdrop, cutting staff a bit of slack and allowing them to watch Murray matches could be a genuine win for businesses and the people working in them, actually raising morale, boosting motivation and increasing productivity.

I’m not advocating that workplaces should become like Google or Facebook, where t-shirts and trainers count as business dress and staff skateboard from the sofa to the organic kitchen via the bowling alley to get their work mojo on.

But how about cracking out the stawberries and cream, popping a couple of bottles of Pimms and letting staff kick back and savour the all-too-infrequent sight of an awesomely-gifted Scottish sporting prodigy in action?

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