It is amazing how every summer we suddenly become a tennis-obsessed nation for a couple of weeks.
Wimbledon has arrived and it is a time of year when people feel inspired to dig out their racquets, blow off the cobwebs and head down to their nearest court for a game.
However bad we may be as a nation at actually playing the sport, when Wimbledon is on the box millions of us certainly like to watch it.
That is a problem, of course, for the people who are supposed to be busy at work when the games are being played.
But the BBC is now able to show live games online, and many people will find it hard to resist the temptation to watch some of the action on the sly, while bosses’ eyes are elsewhere.
And while they are at it football fans might want to watch or listen to coverage of Euro 2008, which is on throughout June, over the net.
If you are the MD of a company and people are watching these events during work time, this raises a number of issues.
Productivity is obviously a concern. If workers are on tenterhooks watching Andy Murray play Roger Federer then they are unlikely to be concentrating on that report you asked them to get on with.
It is the same thing as letting people catch up on the previous night’s edition of Coronation Street during work hours. You just wouldn’t do it.
I read recently that the number of BBC iPlayer users in April was 27 per cent up on the previous month.
This goes to show how people are rapidly becoming aware of the ability to watch TV programmes online – but if staff take advantage of this in the workplace it could prove costly in more ways than one.
If your internet service provider (ISP) has set a monthly data transfer limit on the company’s online activities, then you should be aware that having members of staff watching live sport on the web will rapidly eat into that limit. Exceeding it could result in either extra charges being levied or much slower internet access for you and your staff.
And if an employee is waiting for an important email to arrive in their inbox, or quickly needs to log on to a website to access information, then the delays could have repercussions on your business.
It is therefore important that you have an internet usage policy in place and that everyone knows what it is. It should cover everything from downloading video content to the kind of websites employees are allowed to visit, and must be regularly reviewed and communicated to staff, not left to gather dust somewhere.
But if you know there are lots of workers wanting to watch a sports tournament in your office, then what about having a screen somewhere that people can go to during their breaks?
Having workers clamouring to watch tennis or football during office hours also raises the issue of flexible working, and technology is laying the foundations to let people work when, where and how they like.
It is not just sports fans who would want to take advantage of flexible working, of course, and it is important to be even-handed. All sorts of people – parents with young children, people looking after elderly relatives, or even those who want to pursue a hobby – are likely to want the choice of being able to work from home if they need to.
At Innovit, most of our staff work remotely. We use an internet portal to share files and information, and PDAs allow people to pick up emails wherever they are.
The result is that we have staff who are as able to work from a client’s site as from our offices and who can manage their own workload to fit around travelling and meetings. And with my MD’s hat on, with ever-increasing energy costs I, like a lot of other companies, am turning to home working and virtual offices as a way to cut overheads, reduce commuting time, encourage productivity and reward staff.
Flexible working is something which may already be in place at your company. If it isn’t, I’m not suggesting Wimbledon is a reason to introduce it, but the ball’s in your court.
Andy Dent is MD of Innovit. This and other articles can be found at www.innovit.co.uk