How can employers prevent employees spending too much time at work discussing major sporting events and distracting other employees?

Employers should not preclude employees from discussing major sporting events such as the World Cup or Olympic Games during work time. However, if such conversations impact on the performance of individual employees or parts of an employer's operations (because employees spend too much time talking and distracting others), the employer will need to address the matter.

As a first step, where it identifies that there is an issue in terms of employees spending too much time talking about the events, the employer could issue a memo to all staff reminding them that, while it is an exciting time, the employer's business needs must come first. The memo could state that the employer has noticed a decline in performance and productivity as a result of, for example, discussions about the World Cup, which is a concern, and that employees should remain focused on work. Employees may be reminded that personal conversations about sporting events should not take precedence over day-to-day duties and that, if the situation continues, it may be necessary for the employer to apply its disciplinary procedure. Where the employer has implemented a specific policy that applies to special events such as the World Cup, it should remind employees of its existence.

Where the problem persists, the employer may be left with no option but to investigate further and instigate its disciplinary procedure against employees who spend too much time discussing sporting events during working hours.