World Cup fever is well under way and it’s been a fantastic tournament so far. England (unusually) are on fire and, as I write, about to face Columbia for a place in the quarter finals. Germany had a shock exit losing to South Korea; Argentina scraped through their group then were dumped out by France; Spain and Portugal have been disposed of and Belgium, Croatia, and Sweden are turning on the style in Russia.

What does this mean to people in the world of work? Whether you’re one of the unlucky ones stuck in the office and under the watchful eye of an employer, or you’re the employer concerned about staff being either distracted or absent then read on.

We live in a fully digital world. At the touch of an iPhone or android screen people can access apps, web pages and social media forums for goals, gifs, vlogs and match highlights. It’s all there. The games this year in Russia have are scheduled at 1pm, 3pm and 7pm. Two of those times are during “core working hours” for most employees. Therefore, managing this requires sensible, reasonable and fair policies on behalf of the employer and proper respect for the reasonable requirements of the employer on the part of the employee.

It is important to realise that there is no legal obligation on the part of the employer to allow flexible working, or annual leave (holiday) requests specifically for watching world cup games and employees owe employers a duty to undertake their role with reasonable care, skill and attention and to obey lawful instructions. The World Cup is not, sadly, reason enough to disrupt business.

However, we live in a changing world where flexible working is increasing. Accommodating reasonable employee requests to work flexibly, whether during the World Cup or otherwise, can significantly aid employee wellbeing and, consequently, employee performance – surely a win-win situation?

Employers who are embracing flexible working often have a “Sporting Policy” in place and is something I would recommend for all employers as it sets the ground rules and gives clarity to staff. If no such policy is in place, then it’s probably a good idea to highlight, in advance, the provisions of your other relevant policies (sickness, holiday, disciplinary etc.) and to consider introducing some temporary variations to these policies for the duration of the World Cup. After all, having an engaged and happy workforce can only be a good thing for business. Many employers even use events as this to promote team building and cooperation; a World Cup themed team building exercise could kill two birds with one stone – valuable staff training whilst embracing the mood and spirit of the tournament. Clearly, the key to both employer and employee satisfaction during this time is creativity and flexibility on the part of the employer and cooperation and willingness to put in the hours outside match times on the part of the employee.

So what should you think about if you’re an employer and what should you expect as an employee?

  1. Annual leave requests – if you’re an employer, be fair and reasonable in considering requests, balancing against the needs of the business against employee entitlement to annual leave. If you’re an employee, get your request in early to avoid disappointment!
  2. Use of social networking sites and media during the working day – These are clearly going to be on the increase during the World Cup, so if you’re an employer, ensure that everyone is aware of the current policies and let them whether there will be any leniency in their enforcement. If you’re an employee, make sure you know what the rules are and stick to them.
  3. Alcohol consumption during the world cup games – Clearly it is not normal to drink during work hours, unless perhaps you’re on a business lunch or event. During the World Cup you may watch a game over lunch or the afternoon with work colleagues, or friends, or perhaps catch a game in the evening on a work night out. As an employee, make sure you are clear on your employer’s alcohol policy. If you think that it may be relaxed during this time, don’t rely on assumption but get confirmation.  As an employer, consider whether it may be reasonable to relax the rules.  If not, then make sure your staff know that there will be no tolerance of behaviour affected by alcohol, World Cup or no World Cup.  Much like Christmas parties, employers should be clear about the rules and stick to them. A polite reminder to all staff is a sensible thing to do to avoid any problems and disciplinary issues caused by excessive consumption of alcohol.

ACAS have provided a very useful guide to the World Cup, which includes some of the main issues and tips to dealing effectively with them within the work place. Please see this link http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2953

All in all, be sensible, be reasonable and be fair. Enjoy the World Cup…it’s only every 4 years.