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February 2012

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Business Unprepared for Olympics Impact
Barely any UK companies have made contingency plans for the impact the London 2012 Olympics might have on their business, and the majority do not plan to alter working practices to allow staff to watch Olympic events.  In London, companies are only marginally more prepared than the rest of the nation for when the Opening Ceremony begins. 

The findings come in new research of decision makers in the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), interviewed in IFF Research’s SME Omnibus study.  

Only 3% of SMEs have planned for a potentially slower than normal, or crashing, internet service during the Games.  The same proportion, 3%*, have made plans for staff shortages, whether planned or unplanned absences; in London this rises to 11%.  

Just 5% of SMEs have made contingency plans for deliveries being affected by potential transport disruption; in London the figure is similar, with 7% of the capital’s SMEs having such plans in place.  

The majority of businesses are also doing little to help get employees in the Olympic spirit.  Whereas 25% will let staff watch key Olympic events during business hours, 64% will not.  Just over a quarter of the UK’s companies - 28% - will let staff work more flexible hours while the Olympics are on, but 59% will not; however, here the capital’s businesses are more pragmatic with 47% introducing more flexible hours for employees. 

Across the country, of those businesses who will let staff watch events at work and/or work more flexible hours, 80% are doing so to boost staff morale, 71% to recognise the Games’ status as a once in a lifetime event for the UK, 31% to stop staff taking ‘sickies’ to watch Olympics events and 24% to avoid staff getting caught in travel disruption.  In London, transport delays are more likely to be a reason, cited by 50% of SMEs in the capital.      

SME decision makers were also asked if they agreed that ‘concerns about the Olympics causing disruption to British businesses are being grossly over-exaggerated’.  The majority, 52%, agree with this statement, some possibly remembering unfounded panic which preceded events such as the Millennium Bug.  Three in ten (31%) disagree that there is a gross over-exaggeration.

Mark Speed, Joint Managing Director, IFF Research, comments:  “Although the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games recommends that businesses make contingency plans, only small proportions of SMEs have measures in place to counter possible disruption.  This is the case even in London, where the impact is likely to be most keenly felt.  As the Opening Ceremony draws closer, it is likely that more businesses will turn their minds to this, but it’s important that they don’t leave it too late.

“We were surprised to see how few employers will let staff watch key Olympics events during working hours.  Small gestures like this can boost morale immeasurably and letting staff cheer on our bright Olympic hopes, like Chris Hoy or Jessica Ennis, could be an easy win for employers wanting a happier and more productive workforce.”   

Media Coverage: 
Your Business with James Caan
Business Unprepared for Olympics Impact
SME Business Omnibus