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Managing staff during the World Cup

Published by Safety Net Team

November 9, 2022

The FIFA Men’s World Cup 2022 officially kicks off on 20 November with 32 nations from across the globe competing to take home the prize. The tournament, which lasts until 18 December, may present a challenge when it comes to managing staff, especially as many of the matches will fall during or shortly after the working day.

Below we outline top tips for managing staff during the tournament.

Sporting events policy
During this time organisations can rely on an existing policy covering sporting events. This can outline the organisational stance on a variety of issues, including any concessions to accommodate staff during the tournament. Hopefully, this will still be fresh in everyone’s mind after the Women’s Euro and Birmingham 2022 earlier in the year, however any changes should be highlighted prior to the tournament kicking off.

Workplace distractions
Kick-off times will vary, however a number of games will be played during regular business hours. Staff may become distracted during these times as they attempt to keep up to date with the action, which could have a negative impact on productivity. To mitigate this, it is wise to keep an eye out for anyone using their mobile phones and even consider blocking internet access or access to certain websites on workplace IT equipment for relevant periods.

Alternatively, some organisations may decide to take another approach, allowing managers to make staff aware of the scores or even placing a TV in the staff room and allowing staff to watch the games during designated break times.

Bullying and harassment
World Cups are often revered for their ability to promote a sense of fandom and national pride, however passions must not be allowed to get out of hand, and the workplace should remain a welcoming and safe environment for all. With every nation playing at least three games each, there will be plenty of opportunities to celebrate different nations.

Organisations should also be wary of staff making offensive sexist remarks during the tournament, ensuring there is an appropriate grievance reporting procedure in place and that instances of harassment are handled seriously.

Employees wanting to watch events
Any decision regarding who gets to watch should be made fairly. It may be possible to show events during work and allow staff to time their breaks around particular events, or some may ask to work at different times in order to see their favourite team.

For those wanting time off, processes for submitting annual leave requests should be clearly outlined in company policies and employees should be reminded of these rules. This may cause frustration for those wanting annual leave for different reasons, so processes must be applied fairly.

Employers may want to inform staff that attendance levels will be monitored during the tournament to deter those who may be thinking of taking a day off anyway. Employees should be aware that any unauthorised absences will be classed as a form of misconduct that can result in disciplinary action.

Employers should consider embracing the tournament at work, using it as a way of developing a greater sense of morale and camaraderie. Attendance at work can be encouraged by holding themed events, such as fancy dress, food, or lunchtime games, and live notification of results.

Employees engaging in “banter”
There are likely to be employees of different nationalities represented at the World Cup. Whilst this can lead to light-hearted rivalry, careful monitoring is needed to ensure no offence is caused, as this can be an emotive topic where strong opinions are held.

To avoid the potential for discrimination or harassment, employers should be careful to treat all employees in the same way regardless of their nationality. Employers should also ensure that the workplace remains free from banter between fans that could qualify as harassment or discrimination, by reminding employees of the organisation’s policies, and taking appropriate action in a timely manner should any issues arise.

Managing alcohol
Alcohol and sporting events, for many, go hand in hand, and it may be tempting to make alcohol part of the festivities. However, this can lead to issues, not only for those employees who do not or cannot drink alcohol, but also for behaviour as a result of drinking.

A clear alcohol policy is needed, notifying employees of expectations, and warning that breaking these rules could lead to disciplinary action.

Next steps
This is a time of celebration of sporting achievement and has the potential to create a positive atmosphere in the workplace. A gentle reminder of the rules in place should help to ensure that everyone gets to participate how they wish (including not at all), free of discrimination or poor behaviour.M

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