Why companies should embrace cultural phenomena like ‘Game of Thrones’ in the workplace

Game of Thrones has evolved from just another television show to a full-blown worldwide cultural phenomenon. While the show and similar sensations offer the opportunity for coworkers to bond, Thrones chit-chat alone is estimated to cost employers $3.3 billion in productivity.

The new “Absence is Coming” survey from The Workforce Institute at Kronos estimated that more than 27 million employees will either miss work completely, arrive late, work remotely, or be less productive than usual on Monday, May 20, because of the previous night’s series finale.

According to Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, there are many ways to avoid this loss of productivity without going all Cersei Lannister on your employees.

Be prepared for decreased productivity before and after the Game of Thrones finale

With preparation, Maroney said that managers are easily able to minimize any loss in productivity. Maroney suggests that employers be realistic and understand that there will be lower productivity the morning after an event like the Thrones finale or the Super Bowl.

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“From a management perspective, perhaps Monday morning is not the best time to kick off a brand new initiative,” Maroney said.

By marking these days on the calendar, employers can prepare for an elevated amount of employees requesting time off, coming in late, or being tired at work.

Play into the Game of Thrones phenomena and have some fun

Cultural phenomena like Game of Thrones, the Super Bowl, March Madness or the Grammy Awards are great opportunities for employers to nourish and encourage bonding among employees.

“As long as having these conversations in the break room or on the factory floor aren’t going to become a productivity or safety issue, it’s something to leverage as an opportunity to encourage camaraderie as opposed to being big brother about it and trying to shut it down,” Maroney said.

Some offices followed the lead of Super Bowl squares and March Madness brackets and created a betting game for who they believe will end up on the Iron Throne by the end of season 8. Other options are to set up a television in the office so that employees on duty don’t have to miss out on the big event, whatever it may be.

“Understand that it’s a shared national experience going on, tie into it and use it as an opportunity to have a little fun in the workplace,” Maroney.

game of thrones
Helen Sloan / HBO

Encourage a culture of flexibility

“Millions of people said that they will likely call in sick or not show up last minute or come to work late,” Maroney said. “That has a measurable impact for employers.”

The main piece of advice when handling situations like the Game of Thrones series finale episode is to promote flexible schedules in the office. If employees feel comfortable taking time off or adjusting their schedule, there will be far less people calling in sick at the last minute, therefore making sure you’re covered on those days.

Providing employees the opportunity to swap shifts or take time off will curtail resentment toward their job or employer.

Maroney realizes that not all occupations allow employers to be flexible with schedules, like with teachers or police officers, but there is still an opportunity to offer people some time off.

“For the kind of work that is scheduled on a shift basis, the longer in advance that person in charge of scheduling can plan for somebody to be out, the better,” Maroney said.

An employer may even want to bring up time off first if they know a certain employee is passionate about a particular event.

A culture of flexibility will increase loyalty and productivity

“Any extent to which you can accommodate schedule flexibility is going to earn you more trust and loyalty from the people who work for you,” Maroney said.

When employers are given more freedom, they never feel like they have to be at work. Usually, they begin to feel like they want to be, and that feeling is magnified when employers respect their personal interests.

“Especially in this climate we have record low unemployment, people have options to go elsewhere so things that you can do to make them think twice when a recruiter calls, like giving them schedule flexibility, can be a huge benefit to the employer, not just the employee,” Maroney said.

Respecting employees’ personal lives will help them respect you

Mutual respect goes a long way when it comes to office culture and productivity.

“Some managers might brush it off as just a TV show, but it’s really important to people’s social lives and they want to be part of that experience,” said Dan Gaffney, a representative for the Workforce Institute at Kronos. “If they can work for a manager that respects their personal life, that goes a long way.”

Take into consideration what type of events employees enjoy

Keeping track of each employee’s interests is a difficult task for a CEO, but individual team managers should know this information through daily office chat. It’s a great idea for managers to note this type of information about their employees so they can create a schedule that works for everyone.

“There are all sorts of events throughout the year, whether it’s the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Game of Thrones finale, or award shows,” Gaffney said. “These are strategies that you can apply across the board for all of these different events throughout the year. They may not all matter to every employee, but for the employee they do matter to it makes a really big difference.”

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