The 22 FIFA World Cup has already been bringing us much drama and delight, since kick-off late last month. Now, as the contest heats up and the prospect of several more tense clashes looks likely for our final working days pre-Christmas, here’s some timely information and advice about how to manage ‘Cup Fever’ in the workplace, what disruption to anticipate, and how to show fair leadership to employees at this special time.

Managing Employee Absence during the World Cup

It’s quite possible that employers may have found themselves contending with an increase in holiday requests already over the last few weeks – namely from employees who want time off to watch matches.

While many requests will be for half a day only to watch a particular match, others will be for a few days for the employee to travel to Russia to support their team.

It may not be possible to accommodate all requests but employers should deal with requests fairly and consistently.

Dealing with annual leave requests fairly

By setting out in advance how annual leave requests will be dealt with, employers can manage employees’ expectations.

Where holiday requests cannot be granted, it may be possible to be flexible around working hours.

Take steps to control sickness absence

Employees who know their employer will be monitoring sickness absence are less likely to “pull a sickie” to be able to watch a match (or recover from over-celebration (or commiseration) from the night before).

Employers can help to control short-term sickness absence by making their sickness absence policy clear and addressing the situation if they suspect that an employee’s sickness is not genuine.

Embracing the tournament to boost staff morale
Employers can use football tournaments like the World Cup to boost morale among staff by screening key matches in the workplace and allowing employees to watch games together during working hours if operational requirements permit.

Employees who take advantage of the opportunity to take a break from work and watch a match can be required to make up lost time.

Morale-boosting ideas for the staff collective

You might want to look at the occasion as an opportunity to involve staff in collective participation. Things like sweepstakes, charity initiatives, or the decoration of workspaces with flags, can all be a positive option which engenders enthusiasm.

Mitigating distractions & decreased workplace productivity

During the World Cup, some employers may experience a reduction in productivity due to employees:

  • watching matches on their work desktops and laptops (which may also cause problems with the employer’s network);
  • watching matches on their own devices; and
  • talking about the football.

While some excitement and wanting to keep up with the latest developments is inevitable, employers can take action to deal with excessive time-wasting and misuse of their systems.

Avoid excessive time-wasting during World Cup matches

Make it a wider employee conversation to discuss how matches staged in work time would and could be viewed. In doing so, encouraging the idea of concessions and the onward talk about it may affect productivity.

You might also consider incentives around productivity during this period.

Managing staff working from home

Don’t forget that there will be some employees who are still based at home while working during this time. All of your plans and approaches should take into account what the potential is for home-based staff to see the match discreetly, regardless of what is put in place.

Make your process fair to all.

Take care to avoid discrimination

Employers need to ensure that no particular groups are disadvantaged during the World Cup.

For example, requests for time off and flexibility around working hours by employees who are not following the tournament should also be considered fairly and consistently.

Employees who are foreign nationals may want to follow their team and any flexibility afforded to England fans should also be extended to them.

Any rivalry should not be allowed to spill over into harassment. Employers will need to deal with perpetrators if this happens.

Make your expectations clear to employees

By setting out their expectations and clarifying their rules in a sporting events policy before tournaments begin, employers can help to avoid issues around misconduct, absenteeism and harassment.

Issue a Time off for Sporting Events Policy to make your expectations clear. We have one of these as part of our standard documents within our Online HR toolkit.

And to help you plan the rest of the World Cup tournament….

  • The Quarter-Finals are on Friday 9th & Saturday 10th December either at 15:00 or 19:00. England play France at 7pm on Saturday 10th December.
  • The Semi-Finals are on Tuesday 13th & Wednesday 14th December at 19:00.
  • The Final is on Sunday 18th December at 15:00.