We’re approaching the time when the football fans among us start to scan the fixture schedules and plan our viewing of the World Cup. Depending on where the tournament is being held and when the games are scheduled, this can sometimes mean a clash with working hours. At this year’s World Cup in Russia, all of England’s opening matches happen to fall outside of the nine-to-five (Tunisia, 7pm, Monday 18 June; Panama, 1pm, Sunday 24 June; Belgium, 7pm, Thursday 28 June). However, as the tournament progresses, there will likely be occasions when employers will need to be prepared for the HR challenges that can arise from their employees’ desire to follow their team.
A report put together by Canada Life Group Insurance before the last World Cup in Brazil included some interesting figures. It found that 8% of employees would consider taking a sick day when they are not ill so they could watch a key match. If they were considering drinking while watching the games, 40% were more likely to call in sick the next day. And 41% agree that having friends or colleagues also taking time off work (either annual leave or sick leave) would encourage them to call in sick even if they weren’t. If their team were to progress to the knock-out stages, the percentages rise again with around 60% of workers confessing they would consider pulling a sickie if their national team made the semis or the final.
It’s something for employers to be alert to, but there are a number of options they can consider which will allow their employees to follow the World Cup while continuing to remain productive in the workplace throughout.
World Cup Tactics for Employers
Juggling annual leave requests: For the bigger matches later in the tournament, you may be faced with multiple annual leave requests. If you’re operating a ‘first-come, first-served’ approach to booking leave it might be useful to communicate this to staff as early as possible, while also making it clear that not all leave requests can be accepted if there is a business need for the employee to be in work.
Flexible working hours / working from home: Offering flexible working hours can be a pragmatic way for employers to allow their staff to fit their work around the matches. A number of the games in Russia will kick off at 1pm and 4pm. Employers could offer an extended lunch break or the opportunity to leave early, as long as the employee had put the hours in to cover this and wasn’t specifically needed at these times. Again, if the demands of the business allow, and there isn’t a need for the employee to be physically present in the office, employers could also consider allowing them to work from home.
Showing matches at work: Putting a screen up in a spare room and showing the match can be another effective way to allow staff to include the game in their working day without too much disruption to them or the business. This can be a morale-boosting and team-building exercise that pays dividends long after the end of the match. (Don’t forget that a TV license may be required to screen TV programmes in a business premises).
Setting expectations: With all matches being screened by one of the two main terrestrial broadcasters (BBC, ITV), all games will be streamed live on the internet. Employers may want to consider reminding their workforce of what is and is not appropriate in terms of internet usage during this time, and specifically how it relates to the World Cup.
Avoiding discrimination: This final point should go without saying, but it’s important to remember that football is a game for everyone, not just male staff. All requests to watch games should be treated equally, whoever they come from. Similarly, given the multinational make-up of many businesses, employers will need to be mindful that not everyone will be supporting England. Followers of any one of the 31 other countries competing will need to be given the same opportunities to follow their own sides as they progress through the competition. Finally, employees who don’t follow football should also be afforded the same or equivalent privileges as those who do.
It is important to be clear with staff about what is expected of them during the World Cup in advance of the tournament. Reminding them of HR policies and procedures now can prevent problems from occurring when the competition has started. However, considering offering some of the options above and showing staff you are willing to be flexible is a great way to engage your employees. Handled correctly, watching the World Cup can be an opportunity to bond and build staff morale throughout the organisation, whatever the result on the pitch.