2010 World Cup Fever: A Warning to Businesses Everywhere
The World Cup has stopped wars, launched dictators and broken hearts. The month-long quadrennial soccer extravaganza can also reduce a nation’s GDP: neither over-zealous victory parties nor wallowing in defeatism do much for worker productivity.
World Cup 2010 begins in South Africa on June 11. Human Resource departments at employers in the 32 participating nations will likely see a deluge of sick leave requests during the tournament, but flexible managers can seize this opportunity to build esprit de corps. A Human Resources director of an Asian conglomerate put it shrewdly: “We see the drop in employees’ performance as an identifiable cause which should recover once the World Cup is over. Besides, there are intangible benefits from such major events like social bonding that could impact a company’s profitability positively over time.”
In the short-term, however, worker productivity may wane across much of the globe. Emerging economies like Brazil will be in carnival mode the entire month, so talented are their soccer team. A survey by YouGov, an international, Internet-based market research firm, found that 38% of Brits plan to have “sickies” during the World Cup. It’s not much better in the eurozone. Highly touted Spain may enter a prolonged party-induced siesta just when their economy calls for hard work and austerity.
We probably won’t reach those levels of absenteeism, but there will be an uptick over past World Cups since our team is more competitive and Americans bought more tickets to this tournament than any other nationality. Interest is heightened by the glamour match of the first round against old blighty, where several of our football-kicking finest ply their trade either full-time or on loan. England has won 7 of 9 matches against the U.S. and has a vastly superior goal differential; however, the U.S. has improved significantly and should be England’s toughest opponent in the group stages.
ABC will air the match and while I’m generally a conscientious employee if I were scheduled to work on June 12th I might just come down with a dodgy stomach from some tainted food.
Employers that clamp-down on truant employees like me may waste an opportunity for team-building exercises like watching games together at work, and morale boosting initiatives like flexible work scheduling. Just look at the last World Cup in 2006 to appreciate the staffing opportunities to build goodwill, as employees’ cars suddenly won’t start, their boilers go on the fritz, or they have to watch the kids since the child-care center suddenly shut down.
In 2006 a Dutch insurance company launched a policy to protect companies from an inundation of sick leave.
British labor unions advised employees on how to embellish sick leave requests.
A forlorn Japanese trader captured his country’s chagrin in the summer of 2006 after conspiring to lose to Australia in the dying minutes of the game: “Don’t ask me anything about the market today… I don’t feel like doing anything.”
At least he showed up for work; many Aussies who celebrated the other end of the result didn’t. Known for a bit of sports bravado, Australians went absolutely mental after defeating Japan. Socceroo fans were hopping around the streets like kangaroos eluding a brush fire. Worker productivity went so far down under that then Prime Minister John Howard assumed the mantle of Human Resources Manager-in-chief, appealing for leniency from employers as bleary-eyed fans lost their hop at work.
Even Buddhist monks, normally so entrenched in their daily rituals you can set your watch by them, were tardy for morning alms.
Ghana’s economic well-being is tied to gold production, but in the 2006 World Cup so many workers stayed home it created a huge surge in T.V. viewing that threatened a blackout. Let’s see, gold production or soccer on T.V.? For officials it was a no-brainer: the mines were told to cut power.
In my workplace during the last world cup there was only one sick absence – mine! But with a tasty matchup against the Three Lions of England, and a respectable opportunity to progress deep into the tournament, absenteeism will rise this time.
Human Resources directors: unless your organization’s mission is to protect public safety and health, or you operate a refreshing watering hole with a giant screen T.V, you will do well to employ some flex-scheduling like shift-swaps, early finishes and late starts. This will engender goodwill that will enhance worker commitment and loyalty. I urge you: follow the example of John Howard and cut us some slack. We’ll make up the profits later.