Football fever comes to work - Is your workplace ready?

Allowing a bit of flexibility for fans who want to watch the World Cup can give staff morale a big boost.

A lot of World Cup traditions are disappearing. There will be no official England song for this tournament (possibly because the FA have finally, rightly, concluded that no country will ever top this contribution from Jamaica in 1998). Gone too is the bombastic over-hyping of England’s chances – a nice run to the quarters with some half decent football would be welcomed as progress by most fans.

But at least one proud tradition remains*. As in previous years, at the TUC we’re urging employers to be as flexible as possible so that workers don’t have to miss the big games.

This a big deal for a lot of fans, with 14.7 million tuning in to watch England’s opening match of the 2014 tournament. And should England progress to the knock out rounds the interest will increase – almost half the population suffered through the 1990 semi-final loss to Germany.

For employers, showing a bit of common sense at times like this can make a big difference to staff morale.

What do we want employers to do?

The short answer is to allow as much flexibility as possible so that fans can watch the games, especially the key matches.  Too many employers see the World Cup as a threat, dreading that it will lead to skiving or hung-over workers. Why not look for the opportunities that come from embracing the event instead?

The England fixtures in the group stage shouldn’t cause problems for most of us, as two of the matches are scheduled for 7 PM on weekdays (18 and 28 June) and one is on Sunday afternoon (24 June).

But don’t forget that more than 7 million people work in the evenings and more than 5 million work on Sundays.

Here are some practical ways to allow staff to enjoy the World Cup:

  • Consider how those who want to watch matches can do so. This might include allowing changes to starting or finishing times or breaks during the working day. Managers could also look favourably on requests for leave and flexitime.
  • Think about work-scheduling to avoid important deadlines clashing with key matches if possible.
  • Provide a television viewing room for key matches to reduce disruption and absenteeism.
  • Staff may also want to listen to some games on radios while working. This request should be easy to meet.

Won’t those who aren’t football-crazy end up doing all the work?

Showing some flexibility has a great potential to lift staff spirits but just keep in mind that not everybody loves football.

  • Make sure that those who don’t want to follow the World Cup don’t get left with the lion’s share of the work. This should be easy where working time is simply being shifted around a bit.
  • Ensure that televisions and radios do not disrupt quiet working environments

Be sensitive to the feelings of non-football fans by offering similar workplace flexibility for their interests.

Isn’t this just about those who support the England football team?

Naturally England fans want to win, but interest in the game goes beyond supporting the national team. Harking back to those TV ratings, the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina was watched by 14.9 million viewers – a figure that hasn’t been equalled since.

And the UK workforce is diverse. Many people will want to watch the games involving their country of their birth or ancestry, and there’s plenty that employers can do for those who support other teams.

Giving 110 per cent

One final footballing tradition that isn’t going away is the abuse of stats in post-match interviews. We can expect a lot of players to ‘give 110 per cent to the team’ over the next month. Maybe employers should try the same, because when they’re willing to give 110 per cent, it’s the extra 10 per cent that their staff remember.

*At least two actually – last week saw the usual rash of slightly silly stories about how much the UK economy could benefit from a good run by England.