Back in 2010, I did a post about how the World Cup would likely disrupt the workplace with everything from streaming videos to vacation time being used. I noted that even then, people were more excited than they’ve ever been and that the games, which would occur during prime working hours, would likely need to be dealt. (And if the goal from the USA against Algeria in 2010 doesn’t give you goosebumps, you may want to check your pulse too.)
I also predicted Spain would win the World Cup (which they did) so I didn’t do too bad on my predictions.
So what’s changed in the last four years? Will it cause the same disruptions? Maybe. But maybe not.
On the one hand, employees don’t need your computer system anymore. They can stream every game for free on their smartphones or tablets (the iPad was released just 6 weeks prior to the World Cup) which they own with increasing frequency.
On the other hand, we’ve continued to see explosive growth in social media. Your employees will be more prone to distractions than ever. Even if many of the games are later in the day than South Africa, there will still be lots of afternoons filled with soccer.
And so, in 2014, we see once again several posts and articles from HR-types and newspapers giving employers tips as to how to manage this big disruption to the workplace.
One overseas company goes even further by recommending that employers adopt a “flexible” workplace policy, suggesting that employers should have agreements in place to deal with requests for time off, sickness absence or watching TV or websites. The company said:
The World Cup is an exciting event for many football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period. Many businesses need to maintain a certain staffing level in order to survive. Employers should have a set of simple workplace agreements in place before kick off to help ensure their businesses remain productive whilst keeping staff happy too. Our guidance published today can help managers get the best from their team players and avoid unnecessary penalties.
I wouldn’t go nearly that far. You don’t need “workplace agreements” here in the U.S. Work is still work and employers can still require employees to get work done during work hours — even with the World Cup.
But if you do find your employees going a bit astray, consider counseling them before serious discipline. No need to issue a red card when a yellow one, or even a warning, will do.