Under normal circumstances, my team and I are on the same page when we talk about goals, but during the past few weeks, I’m not sure if this has always been the case! With “Football’s Coming Home Syndrome” spreading to our London office (and I imagine every office globally), managers all around the world will have been particularly focused on one thing – employee productivity.

Home or away?

There are clearly contrasting opinions when it comes to the World Cups impact on productivity.

On the one hand, Insider.co.uk reports that a poll of over 2,000 UK workers conducted by FootballTips.com revealed the average number of unauthorised absences expected for each football fan could be as a high as four days. Using this figure, a median seven-hour working day, the UK’s average earnings per hour and viewing figures from the last World Cup the report estimates it could cost the UK’s economy up to £13bn.

On the other hand, as Fortune reports, watching football could actually make for a more productive workday. As one recent paper demonstrates, watching soccer can affect a fan’s happiness an hour before kick off and up to three hours after the players disappear down the tunnel. Other research has shown that boosting people’s happiness can make them about 10% to 12% more productive at work — implying that a good day on the pitch will lead to a good day at the office. The catch is that the negative effect of seeing your team lose is twice as big as the boost to the happiness of watching them win.

Now that we’re down to the quarter-finals, normality has been restored somewhat, but as an avid sports fan, I know there is a continuous stream of events that are of interest (Wimbledon anyone?) However, while several studies have shown that there have been major productivity drops throughout the World Cup, it doesn’t have to be that way.

World Cup flexibility

With the new rights around flexible working hours in play, testing new patterns during major sporting events like the World Cup can set a precedent for other such as Wimbledon, the Rugby World Cup, the Olympics and so on. Here are three ways that employers and managers can utilise flexible working to embrace the spirit of these occasions in order to boost productivity and morale:

  1. Watch it as a team – allow staff to swap shifts or take a break during match times to watch games together in the conference room. People will find a way to watch their favourite sides regardless, so you might as well offer them the opportunity to do so as a collective and build relationships.
  2. Restructure the working day – allow employees to come in a little later or finish sooner so they’re more productive while in the office, and then agree when this time can be made up. Permitting your team to experience the event will enrich their job satisfaction by showing that you value them, making personnel happier, more dedicated and more productive at work.
  3. Provide game-day activities – positively channel office excitement by running an office pool to involve non-sports fans and provide match-day snacks. Occasions like this can provide a connection for colleagues from different teams or departments who might not normally interact with one another. Think of it as a cheap and cheerful team building exercise.

Of course, clearly define what you envisage from your workforce in terms of attendance and performance. Check to see if the flexible schedules are working: how well is the team working collectively, are they able to still hit targets, and is everybody capable of preserving their quality of work? The likelihood is that employees will appreciate the new privilege, which will display in their work. After all, productivity is more than just pushing out work hours.

Fortunately, there is a range of cloud-based resources that empower you to do so without having any effect on performance. Meaning that your customers continue to receive the same level of service even during those patriotic summer afternoons. I like to think if I can provide the right tools and the right team culture, we can focus on the World Cup and be a productive business simultaneously.

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