Making the Most of the World Cup at Work

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With the 2018 FIFA World Cup just around the corner, we’ve taken a look at the impact the tournament will have on work and productivity in the UK. The time difference between the UK and Russia (the tournament’s host), along with the high volume of games, means many matches will take place during the working day, resulting in a serious threat to productivity.


To find out what the tournament might mean for employers and businesses we surveyed 1,679 people to ask how they plan to balance watching the game with doing their work. We found that a staggering 53% of respondents were considering taking time off to watch a game.

World Cup Absences

The most popular day for planned absences in the UK was Monday 18th June, the date of England’s first match against Tunisia, with 20% of respondents saying they were planning to take this day off. Other matches in the group stage also look set to make a dent in the number of employees at work, with 10% of respondents saying they planned to be off for the England match against Panama on 24th June, and 12% thinking about staying home to watch England vs Belgium on 28th June.
Spread across the UK working population of 32,344,000 people, this rate of absence could add up to 23,190,235 working days lost across the tournament, at a cost of £2,424,539,069 to businesses, based on the UK’s average hourly wage. The England vs Tunisia match alone is likely to account for 6,375,002 lost days.


Further knock-on effects may be felt throughout UK offices because of drinking. Over half of respondents to our survey indicated that they would be enjoying a few drinks whilst watching the World Cup. The resulting hangovers pose extra risk to working days and productivity, with one in five Brits admitting that hangovers regularly affect their productivity at work.
This could have serious ramifications for businesses across the UK, potentially limiting productivity, outputs and profits during the tournament.

Planning Ahead

All is not lost, however. We spoke to Director of HR Dept, Martine Robins, to see what employers can to do to try and ensure their workers stay in the office during the World Cup. HR Dept offers human resources and health and safety support for small-to-medium-sized businesses.
Planning is key in minimising any negative effects the World Cup may cause on workplace productivity. Robins suggests that “companies can plan ahead with holiday approvals so they know how this is likely to impact productivity”. Make sure that your policy on booking holidays is flexible and clear to all your staff.
Our survey suggested that 71% of people had not received any communication from their companies about booking holidays during the World Cup. Sending a reminder email about company policy on booking holiday, possibly including deadlines for requesting days off during the tournament and dates still available to book off may prompt employees to submit their requests. Ensuring all holiday requests are received in advance will allow you to better plan your workforce and outputs.

Flexibility Is Key

For holiday requests that can’t be met it may be worth offering a flexible working policy if your business allows. “The benefits of flexible working for the employer allows them to know when their employees are in work and they plan the productivity around that. A bit of give and take generally results in more engaged employees and increased loyalty to the business” say Martine Robins.
Set up a flexible working agreement with your employees by agreeing a core number of hours that employees must be at their desks and allowing them to arrange their own working week around these where possible. By allowing late starts, early finishes and long lunches, on the proviso that the hours are made up elsewhere, you’re more likely to prevent employees taking time off to watch the games.

Keeping Everyone on the Pitch

In the workplace itself, there are plenty of things that can be done to keep people at their desks during the tournament. Martine Robins suggests that a World Cup sweepstake can be a good way of engaging your employees and showing goodwill towards the event.


For a select few key matches, it may be worth allowing employees to watch or listen to these in the workplace. Although this may seem counter-intuitive and likely to lower productivity and concentration, over two-thirds of respondents to our survey (69%) said being able to watch or listen to the game would not negatively impact on their productivity. In fact, 34% of respondents actually felt that being able to watch or listen would increase their productivity. Screening games your employees are invested in the office will create a buzz, pushing up energy and productivity levels, as well as offering a bonding opportunity for those interested in the game.
Although the World Cup may present some challenges to managers and business owners in the UK, these can be overcome. In proactively ensuring that staff feel able to remain at work while participating in World Cup events, it is possible to take advantage of the tournament as a talking point, a way to build good relationships with staff and encourage team bonding amongst your employees.