The FIFA World Cup 2022 takes places in Qatar from Sunday 20th November until Sunday 18th December. This is an exciting sports event for football fans as well as those that usually only support the national teams. However, for businesses it could be a challenging time as many matches will be shown during core working hours which could lead to a rise in people taking unauthorised absence – which can be costly as well as leave offices short staffed.
A survey last year by Perkbox[i] found that 40% of men have pulled a sickie to watch a sports game at home; whilst 41% of employees claim they watch sports during their working hours.
Also, as the final matches will be played during December, coinciding with the festive season, there is the added temptation people may get even more into the celebratory spirit, drink too much and call in sick the next day.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies in the UK found that calling in sick due to alcohol-related illnesses costs employers £1.7bn in lost productivity annually[ii]. It’s therefore something employers need to address.
Interestingly a poll this year by YouGov for Trusaic[iii], a supplier of equal pay software, found that “Paid Celebration Recovery Leave” otherwise known as a “Hangover Leave” tops the wish-list of new fantasy job perks, with 23% of respondents backing the idea.
Whilst most employers probably won’t want to go this far and offer this as perk, there are ways in which employers can effectively manage staff during the World Cup and minimise the impact on their business. Activ People HR offers the following tips:
Reinforce expected behaviour ahead of time
Given the intense competition between nations, it’s important to remind people what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour ahead of the first match on 20th November. Make it clear that racism, sexism and homophobic language and behaviour will not be tolerated in the workplace. National pride cannot be allowed to create conflict in the workplace.
Make sure policies and procedures are clear
Having the right policies and procedures in place is vital, and staff should be reminded of these. Policies should include specific rules around the World Cup such as what’s the policy on people having time off for games and using screens to watch matches as work, as well as the usual sickness absence policy.
It’s a good idea to establish required cover levels too or record time too, so staff can take leave as time off in lieu. Also, make sure those working at home understand that the same office procedures during the World Cup apply to them and plan how this is monitored.
Activ Handbook is a central repository for creating and issuing policies, standards, and procedures, which staff can easily access. These can also be redistributed in the lead up to the event to serve as a reminder to employees.
Plan for a rise in annual leave requests
Employers should prepare for higher than usual annual leave requests. To help bolster employee engagement, try to accommodate these where possible, but let staff know not everyone will be able to take the time off. For example, for the final this may be an issue if people want to book the Monday off, so it’s worth stressing as soon as possible that it will be on a first come first served basis to keep things fair.
Consider showing matches
If some of the matches are on working days, it could be worth showing them in the office. Make it clear though the time will need to be made up. For early evening matches it could be a great team building opportunity to watch matches together, perhaps with some food and drinks in the office or at a local pub. Getting into the spirit of the world cup could boost engagement and productivity!
Have a clear absence management plan
Having a robust absence management process in place is vital. It could be beneficial to remind employees of sickness policies before the tournament begins. Managers should keep an eye on when the popular matches are showing so they can prepare for more people calling in sick. Click here for fixture dates.
Don’t forget about presenteeism
It may seem commendable that people come into work despite having the worst hangover – however, if this impacts their ability to work, it will result in decreased productivity regardless. If someone is hungover and still clearly inebriated, having them in to make up the numbers is not worth the risk. Decide clearly what your policies regarding alcohol and hangovers should be and make sure the policy is enforced.
Educate staff in advance
The World Cup provides an opportunity to remind staff of the impact that unauthorised absence can have on the business. Often staff don’t realise that short term absence has a big impact on the company’s bottom line and can be more disruptive than long term sickness. Employers could subtly discourage unauthorised absence by asking staff if they want to book Friday or Monday off ahead of the weekend fixtures, where applicable, and of course dependent on availability, so they know their excuses are not likely to work.
Track absence and use return-to-work forms and interviews
Sporting sickies almost always have repeat offenders – it’s usually the same people taking the lead. However, how can managers challenge unauthorised absence if they don’t have data? Activ Absence can help employers keep track of sick leave and spot patterns and trends which can help managers tackle the problem. It also prompts return to work interviews. Staff are less likely to call in sick if it’s not genuine if they know they will have to sit down with their manager when they return to work.
We hope these tips are useful and that everyone can enjoy the World Cup. We wish the best of luck to all the competing nations and finger’s crossed footballs finally coming home this year to either England or Wales!