Relaxing the Rules: How Will HR Professionals Overcome Challenges Presented by the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
In an attempt to ensure employees are allowed to watch the World Cup until the early hours, German trade unions have publicly requested employers ‘go easy’ on the football fans among their staff. The idea has proved popular and gained political backing, with the Christian Democratic Union’s Wolfgang Steiger supporting a temporary change in work arrangements.
In the rest of Europe, it appears to be mostly up to HR professionals to lay down the rules of conduct for bosses and employees alike during the crazy season. And judging by the commentaries available, HR professionals are thinking along similar lines as the German trade unions.
So what will ‘going easy’ on staff constitute, nowadays? Having to prevent bleary-eyed employees from making mistakes or falling asleep on the job? Or taking a more relaxed approach to staff streaming live matches online during work hours? (A problem that rose in 2010’s World Cup). Will Brazil 2014 pose even more challenges to HR departments?
Over the last four years, realities on the work floor and in the real world have changed immensely. For example, there’s been the advent of cloud computing, which takes the sting out of bandwidth usage for many companies. Then there’s the emergence of the ubiquitous ‘selfie’, which is an instrument that can rule a mass event immediately - take the viral Ellen DeGeneres photo at the Oscars, for instance. People have also woken up to the fact that a workplace needs a TV licence to enable World Cup games to be watched live via internet streaming.
HR professionals however, still tread a fine line when organising work schedules, especially when managing absenteeism during the matches. Once practical arrangements have been agreed on and put down in writing, the World Cup has bag loads of potential to lift morale.
Clodagh Murphy, director of IT company Eclipse, advises HR professionals to decide how much access to the popular World Cup games they intend to allow in the workplace. “Communicate plans to staff and outline the viewing conditions,” he writes in an article on Growthbusiness.co.uk.
“Going around it this way is likely to prevent too much disruption, and allowing staff to watch the games together is of course a great team-building exercise which is always productivity-boosting in the long run,” Murphy adds.
Other HR professionals have issued similar advice. “To avoid disruption caused by employees trying to follow games during working hours - or even feigning sickies to watch the big matches - it is wise to have a clear and fair policy that balances your need to run your business with their desire to keep up to date with scores,” writes the ICAEW’s Kate Horstead.
Having a written document in place before the event starts is the most practicable, because you can cover both internal and social media conduct, and resource usage. It will facilitate a smooth month. Emphasizing beforehand that you expect people to show up for work in reasonable shape, and that absences during the matches are not tolerated is also entirely acceptable. Publish this policy well ahead of time and make sure that people take notice. Instructing company managers clearly on how to handle the events both in house and on social media, is furthermore essential.
The World Cup gives employers the chance to show their appreciation to their staff, and the event also offers great opportunities for reaching out to customers in a creative way. Most companies are jumping on the bandwagon to promote their existing products or launch new ones, because football simply is such a good ice breaker. However, using World Cup logos and terminology is subjected to some FIFA guidelines that you should be aware of, particularly if you plan on using football language and imagery in your advertising campaigns. Nobody can ban a dissemination of match schedules on your marketing literature, but using photos of goal scoring moments is an entirely different matter.
During the semi finals and the final stages of the tournament, you might want to offer your employees the option of last-minute leave bookings, as a further step to relax normal working arrangements and engaging in these morale-building festivities. Opting for such measures will justify any close reviews of unauthorised leave you might find yourself forced to.
In case last minute leave bookings are not going to be workable due to popular demand, you could think of alternatives, including allowing employees to make up their hours later on, in the weekend, or allowing them to swap shifts with co-workers who are not watching the matches.
There will always be issues that you can’t put down in the rules. For instance, rivalry between the supporter teams could affect your employees. Just like in the real world, people support football teams for a variety of reasons and just like in the real world, this can tear apart a work floor. A bit of rivalry between English and German or Dutch and German nationalities will always occur and is generally entirely good-natured. However, with more recent memories, emotions could run high. For instance, overseas employees can support the team of their home country when it is playing against their host country, and nationals with a foreign partner can support a rival team even if it is pitted against their own country.
Of course the pleasant surprises will outnumber the stressful ones, however, a lot of this positive energy around the work floor needs managing. As an HR professional, it would be helpful if you facilitated managers to make the most of the opportunities for team building -engage outsiders too. Think for instance, of visiting clients when you lay out the plans for TV screens for your company premises. You could install a screen in the reception of your building as well as in meeting rooms, so that visiting delegates have the opportunity to keep up with the latest - it might make your office a popular haunt for visitors. Again this can be unforeseen, so make sure you put an emphasis on fairness and positive creativity at all times. The football should be seen as an opportunity to allow employees to get to know each other in a whole new setting. Remember, the World Cup only comes round once every four years, and the impact it will have on your productivity and staff morale is in large part up to your input.