‘Tis the season of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This time, it’s women who are going to be playing, beginning this Sunday June 26 and ending July 17, in Germany. It may not be as popular as the men’s World Cup, but it is a busy and important year for women’s football/soccer! Will the rate of employee absenteeism be as high as when the men’s World Cup took place? Maybe not; but still, what can employers do to manage a sudden outbreak of “World Cup flu” cases in their workplace?
This could also apply to avid tennis fans following Wimbledon 2011 matches this week.
As I discussed last year regarding the Men’s World Cup in South Africa, employers may experience an usually high rate of absenteeism in the office in the next coming weeks. As any soccer fan knows, the FIFA Women’s World Cup has almost begun, and Canada has a great chance.
Even if fans go to work, they may have access to the games via their work computers, so time theft may become an issue.
What can employers do? Given that there is simply no cure once the employee has contracted the illness, employers must be able to recognize the symptoms:
- A desperate need to watch as many games as possible
- The inability to talk about anything but soccer
- Devotion to at least one team
- The inability to sit still or speak to anyone during a game
In my experience, the only way to be both a dedicated employee and enthusiastic soccer fan is to watch the repeats after work during the week. Alternatively, I record the games and watch at my convenience.
But this means that soccer enthusiasts must make sure that they do not talk to anyone about sports results or watch, listen to, or read any news until they get home to watch the game(s).
Employers may need to implement a policy called, “Don’t discuss soccer results in the office” and encourage employees to watch the games after work. Employers could also encourage employees to use their unused vacation time or any accumulated time in lieu of overtime to enjoy the most exciting matches live. Alternatively, employers could implement a flex-time policy for employees, at least during the World Cup or for the critical games near the end of the tournament.
Employers may be able to dodge the problem of having employees reach the height of World Cup Flu by trying some of these strategies, instead of having to discipline employees for absenteeism, lateness or time theft. Of course, any discipline would have to be proportional to the misconduct; employers are recommended to start with a warning and escalate from there.
The situation may get even worse come 2015, when Canada hosts the next Women’s World Cup; so start getting prepared…
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor