WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 07, 2014
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Will You be Working or Watching the World Cup?

It’s here! The four-year countdown is finally up. In a matter of days, people from all over the globe will be going Brazil crazy, as they support their national team in the greatest TV sporting event – the FIFA World Cup.

But while employees follow the exploits of their favourite players, understandably perhaps, employers may not be seeing things quite so cheerfully. As the coverage starts, many will no doubt be fearing that for the next few weeks, workforce productivity will fall through the floor, as staff shun working for celebrating their team’s performances. So, should bosses be quite so concerned?

Some experts suggest not. Kick-off times this year are far more employer-friendly: most games start at 5pm, 9pm and 11pm, so in theory, the most people will 'only' miss is an hour or so of work at the end of the day.

However, others argue staff will probably lose much more time than that. For example, past experiences do not set a good precedent. In the 2010 World Cup, on the day England played Algeria, staff absence rocketed by an eye watering 42.5&%. This is equivalent to around 4.32% of people not turning up for work that day. Worryingly, this happened despite kick-off for this game not even starting till 7.30pm. In fact, according to a recent poll by IT services provider Coms plc, this year’s World Cup is predicted to cost businesses a staggering 250,000,000 working hours.

The reason, the research suggests, is that with games starting later in the evening, staff absences (and associated lack of productivity), could actually be delayed until the following day – as bleary eyed staff stagger in, having reveled until late the night before, or don't come in at all.

So, is there time for managers to react? And what responsibility should employees take? While employers here won’t be following the example set in Germany (where works councils actually negotiated allowing staff to arrive later if the previous days’ kick-offs are after 10pm), employees should be asking their bosses to see if they can be a little bit more flexible.

Although bosses might resist, it's the job of staff to convince them that it should be a win-win situation. Allowing staff to come in a little bit later shows they trust them, and half an hour of lost productivity will undoubtedly be repaid with extra commitment in times where it’s all hands on the pump.

So, if you think your bosses are being mean by not embracing the World Cup, tell them that it’s only every four years, and actually, it need not be such a bad thing. In fact, putting some TVs up in the office is a great excuse for staff to have some fun, and actually get to know each other a bit better. That might actually tease out some new relationships and knowledge sharing amongst staff. World Cup? Bring it on!

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