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Vancouver Canuck fans cheer while gathered to watch Game Six of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on June 13, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. (Rich Lam/ Getty Images/Rich Lam/ Getty Images)
Vancouver Canuck fans cheer while gathered to watch Game Six of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on June 13, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. (Rich Lam/ Getty Images/Rich Lam/ Getty Images)

Employers work to minimize hockey hooky Add to ...

It is called the playoff effect, and during the Stanley Cup final smart employers were doing their best to avoid it by embracing the fact that, in Canada at least, hockey does infect people with a type of fever.

The success of that campaign won't be known until quarterly absenteeism statistics are tabulated - but employers in Vancouver can get a quick read on Thursday when they see how many people showed up for work the day after Game 7.

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Ian Cook, director of research and learning at the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association, said he expects the numbers of those who played hooky because of hockey to be low because a campaign has been under way for the past few weeks in which many employers embraced the spirit of the Canucks, introducing flexible work arrangements so people could get out early to watch games.

"The experience of being part of the playoffs is unique and may never happen again in our lifetime. … A day at work always happens, and the tradeoff in somebody's mind is, if you are a hockey fan, you are going to want to go," Mr. Cook said.

"Rather than suffer the absences and [have workers]pretend to be sick, a lot of employers were getting flexible. Not reducing the amount of work that gets done, not letting people not think about work, but saying, 'We know you want to go, we want to help you get there, so come in early, or work your lunch hour … so we get done what needs to be done and you are good to go.' "

Early in the finals, Mr. Cook's organization put out a notice to its members headed: "Playoff Advice to Bosses: Don't Compete with Canucks."

That advisory urged employers to introduce flexible work arrangements on game days and allow people to wear team colours or decorate their work space.

"A number of organizations have got the jerseys going," Mr. Cook said in an interview. "They are tapping into that winning spirit by hosting events during different games. One organization, about two o'clock game day, they basically slow down, take a bit of time to hang out, talk about the game, get a bit of excitement going and use it as kind of a team-building, workplace building session because the excitement is there and it allows people to connect."

Mr. Cook said the owner of a building company let his employees go home early on game days without docking their pay. And another business's owners, who had tickets to home games, said the employees could leave when they did.

All that support translated into fewer people calling in sick - and he expected it would carry through to the day after the big game, too.

"If employers get ahead of it and say, 'We'll give you the space, we'll give you the chance [to go to game parties] give us back the work.' Then I think they'll get [the productivity from employees]" he said.

And Mr. Cook advised employers to let their workers know they were counting on them to show up the day after the big game, and to be understanding if some looked a little rough.

"The advice on the day after is to tap into the spirit of fun. So if your folks are there and are looking a bit worse for wear, then just have the conversation around, 'Hey, did you have a good party,' get people into the spirit of it, and then turn the conversation to what needs to get done."

Mr. Cook said fighting the reality of how strongly some people feel about sports is not a good idea. And that lesson was driven home when Vancouver was gripped by Olympic fever last year - and work absenteeism spiked.

"We track absence on a quarterly basis. I can't tell you what the absences are for this quarter … but we do know for the Olympics there was about a 30-per-cent increase," he said.

The Saskatoon Health Region last year looked at the rate of sick leave and found an increase on the days of major sporting or cultural events. But Anna Marie D'Angelo, a spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health, said the pattern doesn't appear to have developed in Vancouver during the Stanley Cup final.

"There was anecdotal information from timekeepers that it seemed to be happening," she said, "but when they did the analysis, the answer was no." (People weren't calling in sick on game days.)

Follow on Twitter: @markhumeglobe

 

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