Bosses across the region are being urged to get their tactics right or risk a rush of World Cup own goals and red cards in the workplace.
Lucy Trynka, a specialist employment solicitor at Rollits LLP said the four-yearly festival of football can distract even the most dedicated staff, and employers should develop a solid game plan to keep their teams onside.
Lucy said: “The experience of previous big tournaments suggests that many employers may be anticipating a drop in employee productivity as the World Cup action unfolds.
“A number of fixtures stand out already, notably the matches featuring England and Wales. Some of the real football aficionados may even be excited about the prospect of watching Canada play Morocco!”
Lucy noted that the time difference between the UK and Qatar means many matches are likely to fall during working hours, with start times at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm.
For example, both England and Wales face Iran in the group stages during typical office working hours – England at 1pm on Monday 21st November and Wales at 10am on Friday 25th November.
She added: “Somewhat luckily for employers, the high-profile clash of England v Wales in the group stages falls outside of working hours, kicking off at 7pm on Tuesday 29th November however this may mean there are some sore heads in the office the next day!
“The further England and Wales progress in the tournament the more the pressure will increase, and it’s worth employers thinking about the steps they can take to keep staff focused on their work, and maybe to encourage interest in the World Cup when appropriate.”
Lucy suggested employers should remind employees in advance of such games that they should not be watching the football whilst they are working, particularly if employees work from home. It may also be worth drawing the attention of employees to any relevant Company IT Policy which sets out guidelines regarding appropriate internet use in the workplace.
She said: “Employers may also wish to remind employees of any internal policies relating to unauthorised absence and/or appropriate use of sick leave in such scenarios. Also, as shown by football tournaments in recent years, competitive sport can bring out the worst in some individuals, so maybe consider reminding people of the need for appropriate behaviour throughout the competition, with their attention directed to any Company Equality and Diversity policies.
“The risks are not confined to the workplace and inappropriate behaviour outside of work can create a real risk of reputational damage for an employer.”
But Caroline Neadley, a partner in the employment team added that the World Cup also offers potential business benefits which in the longer term could outweigh any initial drop in production.
Caroline said: “The World Cup can provide employers with a useful means of boosting morale and engagement amongst its staff. It could create opportunities to allow staff to bond which in turn could promote better teamwork. For example, employers could hold viewings of key matches for all staff or hold a sweepstake for those who want to engage in some friendly competition.
“If a staff-wide viewing of a match is not feasible, an alternative may be to stream some of the key matches on mute in certain areas of the office, such as in the staffroom or reception.
“A recent survey conducted by Acas found that employees rated ‘relationship with colleagues’ and ‘feeling valued’ among the top five factors that kept them in their jobs. Employees may therefore appreciate these token gestures, and if businesses get it right, we could all end up World Cup winners.”