It all kicks off...

12 May 2018

This article was featured in the June 2018 issue of the magazine.

Danny Done, managing director at Portfolio Payroll, discusses workplace tactics and the key players with the 2018 World Cup about to get underway 

The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on 14 June. The month-long competition is a much-anticipated event and, with studies showing that employee attendance and productivity regularly dip during major sporting events, there are several issues employers should consider to avoid any negative consequences at work. 

As with any initiative, implementing a workplace policy is the most effective method of outlining a company’s stance on the matter. Whilst not all employers will have the inclination to create a specific World Cup policy, they may decide to introduce a sporting event policy which is applicable to different sports across the yearly events and tournaments. If not, pre-existing policies on absence reporting, internet usage and work place conduct will be sufficient; however, employers are advised to communicate with staff ahead of the event to reiterate the guidelines of the policies and to explain any temporary allowances that may be in place to accommodate fans.

Given the time difference between the UK and Russia, most games will be taking place during regular business hours which could negatively impact productivity as employees try to watch their teams or follow the action regardless of who is playing. Although some matches are scheduled in the evening or on weekends, this will not help employers who operate outside of standard business hours or provide a 24/7 service. To mitigate this, employers should ensure existing policies on internet usage and the use of personal mobile devices are enforced. In practice, employers may consider blocking internet access or access to certain websites for certain periods to ensure employees can’t check scores on their work computer. 

There are, however, those employers that wish to embrace the World Cup and the positives of the event, so long as their working environment and business activities allow them to do so. Employers are encouraged to consider what option works best for their business before putting this in place. This could be through allowing staff to follow the tournament, either by following matches online or listening via the radio. Where a TV licence is in place, employers could choose to install a TV in the staff room or communal area allowing employees to watch during designated break times, although employers should consider whether this could lead to complaints from those who don’t like football. Additionally, there may be a risk that some employees take extended or unauthorised breaks to watch matches, especially where these are later in the tournament or at a critical point within the game. 

 

...consider what option works best for their business before putting this in place

 

A more favourable solution could be to nominate one employee to periodically check the scores and simply inform colleagues collectively of any significant developments; a public scoreboard is often an easy way of doing this. 

Employers may also consider taking a more flexible approach to working hours or holiday during the tournament, such as relaxing the rules for the amount of staff off at any one time. Depending on which team the employee supports, employers could allow employees to finish work early to get home in time for a match or start work later, providing they make up their contractual hours. Although it is common for unauthorised absences to increase around major sporting events, employers should not automatically jump to the conclusion that the reason for the absence is because of the tournament. Return to work interviews must be carried out as normal and in line with standard procedure. The same approach should be applied with holidays, and employers should consider informing staff to request holidays well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Many employers choose to embrace the World Cup as an opportunity to boost team morale. Taking positive action and working with staff to bring the World Cup into the workplace, by way of decorations or tournament themed games, should alleviate many of the issues mentioned previously. However, employers should ensure any efforts are inclusive and do not discriminate against fans of specific teams particularly if the organisation possesses a multinational workforce. 

This inclusivity should be extended to those who are not necessarily football fans. Employees should not feel intimidated or treated unfairly for not showing an interest in the tournament; all members of staff need to feel comfortable at work and employers should discipline any employees whose excessive behaviour breaks workplace codes of conduct. 

Naturally, an organisation’s approach to the World Cup will differ significantly depending on the nature of the business, the working environment and the general interest of the workforce. Employers would be best-served to take a tailored and practical approach to the matter, balancing the sentiment of the employees with the needs of the business to come to a mutually beneficial solution.