Executive Insights

A game plan for SA bosses during the World Cup: How to prevent absenteeism and still have fun

Business Insider SA
2018 Soccer World Cup (Supplied)
  • The World Cup is famously bad for productivity in offices across the world.
  • In some countries, a fifth of employees don't show up for work when the national team is playing.
  • South African employers can safeguard themselves against absenteeism, while also using the event as a team-building opportunity. 

The 2018 FIFA Russia World Cup starts this week and, across the world, employers are likely to be nervous. The event is associated with declines in productivity and sharp increases in absenteeism. In past World Cups, surveys in the Netherlands and the UK showed that on national match days, up to a fifth of employees didn't show up.

South Africa is also likely to see an increase in absenteeism during the event, says Portia Mahlalela, who heads Alexander Forbes' unit for health consultancy.

Employers can protect themselves against productivity losses in various ways, but should also use this period to show goodwill towards staff, she adds. 

Here are six ways for businesses to ensure minimal disruption during the World Cup: 

1. Set expectations

Communicate the company’s plans and expectations from employees during the World Cup period, Mahlalela says.

2. Use it as a team-building opportunity

Employers can use the World Cup to increase morale by, for example, running competitions between divisions and/or departments.

3. Viewing areas

To prevent absenteeism, make viewing areas available to employees, or allow them to watch it online while they are working.

4. Flexible working hours and leave

Allow for flexible working hours – especially for the days after late-night games. Make sure that employees are aware that they need to take and coordinate annual leave during this time well in advance.

5. Stick to company policy about absenteeism during the event, no exceptions 

If your company does experience a high incidence of absenteeism during this period, company processes would need to be applied, Mahlalela adds.

6. Make arrangements with off-site workers

It is important to communicate clearly expectations of teams that mainly work offsite, like sales employees, to mitigate absences and reduced productivity.

More on the World Cup

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