The 2014 World Cup starts next week on Thursday 12 June and continues with 63 matches until Sunday 13 July. Over the past few years, with more experience of successive large scale sporting events like the Olympics, generally a harmonious way to get through these periods, limiting productivity loss and avoiding a mass of disciplinary hearings, has been found. However, we think that it’s still worth sending out a clear reminder of what is acceptable and what’s not. Many employers have also successfully used these type of events to improve staff relations, camaraderie and team spirit – so a bit of forward planning may pay dividends.
England’s first three fixtures in the group stage are:
• Sat 14 June, 11pm (v Italy)
• Thursday 19 June, 8.00pm (v Uruguay)
• Tuesday 24 June, 5.00pm (v Costa Rica)
Further matches will depend on the results of group matches: if England progress, it will get more serious and times may vary (and be less easy to deal with) with each match. Remember that you may have employees who support other countries, so check the nationalities and allegiances of your staff but make no assumptions, there may be surprise loyalties. You must be consistent, even if/when England fall out. For a full schedule of fixtures see the BBC listing.
Most matches are in the evenings, some very late and some in the early hours. This obviously affects shift workers’ ability to watch them live, but also bear in mind the knock-on effects on the following days of tiredness etc amongst those who work normal office hours. Consider the diversity of your workforce (those with different nationalities should also receive the same opportunity to support their country). Who will they be supporting and how can you help keep things in friendly rivalry mode?
Actions to take
A few suggestions:
• Remind your staff about expected standards of behaviour and discrimination: we would suggest that you remind everyone (gently) of your standards of behaviour and in particular, your equal opportunity, bullying/harassment, IT and computer use and alcohol and drugs policies. Be clear that offensive and discriminatory conduct (including language, banter, gestures etc) will be dealt with in the usual way, no matter how heated the debate or the match moment. If you have a diverse workforce, it may be worth looking at the full schedule of matches with a view to who might be vulnerable on which days. Even a reminder of dress code is a good idea. Race is the most obvious protected characteristic, but in Northern Ireland shirts with football logos may be considered discriminatory as an indicator of religion. Flags put up in the office may cause issues if they are restricted to certain nationalities. Check that your alcohol and drugs policies cover not just drinking/taking illegal substances whilst at work, but also being under the influence caused by over indulgence the previous night!
• Deal with holiday requests fairly and consistently: hopefully the fanatics booked their leave dates as soon as the fixtures became known but you might encourage others to put in any extra requests now. If you can’t accommodate all requests, then ensure that you deal with competing requests fairly and consistently. (You can of course expect the tennis fans to then ask for similar leniency with leave bookings to fit with Wimbledon season but we have found this to be manageable in the past.)
• Review working hours: how flexible can you be with those who are at work during key matches? Will you allow them to swap shifts, to leave early and make up the time, or might you provide an on-site facility to enjoy the matches with colleagues (or even key clients etc)? Be aware of when the major fixtures are and assess the impact on your workload, likely customer demand during/after those times, impact on employees who would normally be travelling home when the local pubs close after a match etc. Any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should be approved before the event. If watching on television or radio at work, do check you have the appropriate licences. If watching in-house after work make it clear if alcohol is banned on site, and also reinforce your rules re driving – ensure that your normal rules of conduct apply as you may remain liable for your employees’ acts. We may not want to be a nanny state but a little forward thinking will go a long way towards avoiding trouble.
• Handle absences properly: we all worry about abuse of sickness absence by those who haven’t taken leave or who may have had their leave requests turned down. Be careful not to jump to conclusions, but remind your employees of their responsibilities and your procedures re attendance and sickness absence notification, and, if absences occur, be sure to follow your usual guidelines and treat the situation fairly. This means investigating and following up with a reasonably open mind, despite any misgivings you may have about the timing.
• Take steps to prevent the misuse of company resources: another possible cause for disciplinary action would be misuse of company resources, such as the Internet. If a large number of employees stream a match to their desktops all at the same time, not only would their productivity levels reduce, but this could slow down your network or cause it to crash thus affecting everyone else. Again how lenient will you be? How many people will have extra windows open on their pcs – what effect will this have on work outcomes? How would you deal with people involved in gambling on on-line sites? If this is prohibited, a gentle reminder before you have to handle this is a good idea. Possibly more hazardous is the distraction caused by constant checking of mobiles, so again consider where this temptation could be dangerous (eg whilst driving on business or operating machinery) and discuss it upfront. In safety critical roles, you may wish to insist that mobile phones are only accessed during breaks. Evening drivers may need particular briefings to reinforce safe driving.
• Consider more positive initiatives: in-house sweep stakes (with moderate sums) or simple fantasy league type schemes can play an easy role in taking the heat out of misplaced patriotic behaviour and can involve those who are not usually footie followers in a positive, team spirited way.
A quick memo or email, circulated to all staff in advance, could cover all of the above points to remind employees of your rules and also to ensure that they are aware of any special measures that are in place. The World Cup may present you with an opportunity to increase employee engagement and morale, so do try and use this to unite not divide!
This article has been made available by BusinessHR which is an exclusive member benefit to Institute of Hospitality members and can be located on the Institute’s home page at: https://www.instituteofhospitality.org/info_services/BusinessHRServices
About the author
Terry Edney FCIPD is the CEO of BusinessHR who provide a comprehensive HR support service to SME clients from a wide range of industries. Terry and his team provide a business orientated service comprising HR document compliance review, HR helpline and interactive HR website in order to reduce risk, save clients time and allow them to focus on their business.