Fifa World Cup: UAE employers warned of soccer hangovers…

The 2014 Fifa World Cup is likely to hit productivity of professionals across the Middle East, according to a new survey.

When the Fifa World Cup kicks off in a couple of days from now (check the countdown clock on Emirates 24|7 home page for the exact number of hours left for the kick-off), UAE businesses will be hoping that the fact that not many matches will be played during normal UAE office hours should have a minimal impact on the productivity of their workforce.

Tough luck, though. Although none of the GCC countries have qualified for the tournament, according to a survey conducted by online recruitment firm GulfTalent, 89 per cent of employees in the region plan to watch at least some of the games.

With match timings safely falling during the evening and later – after office hours – work may not get directly affected like it would in football-crazy European and South American nations. But with the World Cup lasting a full month, the combined loss of working hours could swell thanks to morning-after soccer hangovers the next day.

The tournament, due to be played in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, will be aired live in the Middle East each day between 8pm to 4am in the UAE and Oman (7pm to 3am in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon).

By comparison, last month’s Indian Premier League 7 T20 cricket tournament, the first leg of which was played in the UAE, did not majorly impact work schedules as all matches were wrapped up before 11pm UAE time. In addition, most matches started at 6.30pm UAE time although some were indeed played starting 2.30pm UAE time.

GulfTalent’s survey asked employees across the Middle East how they plan to balance the watching of late night Fifa games with their work commitments the next day.

About one in 10 said that they would go to work late in order to catch up on sleep, while a similar number will take a day of annual leave after watching late night matches. Three per cent said they would report sick so they do not have to go to work. About one-third of respondents said that they will cut on their sleep to make it to work on time.

When comparing among different job categories, IT professionals were found more likely than others to come to work late or call in sick following a late night match. HR professionals in comparison were the most likely to take a day of annual leave, while marketing professionals were more likely to simply cut on their sleep and come to work tired.

Some survey participants noted that the second half of the tournament will coincide with Ramadan, when many employees in the Middle East are allowed reduced work hours, allowing them to sleep after work and be up in time for the games.

Asked if they would spend any time on the games at work, about one-third of respondents indicated that they would be spending some of their work time discussing the games with their colleagues, or watching the highlights on the Internet.

Some employers expressed concern about the potential drop in productivity resulting from the games. One manager from an oil and gas company commented “I have 50 employees in my team. Most of them are football fans and this will really affect our productivity this month.”

Others were more relaxed or even optimistic about the impact of the games. Commenting on the issue, a manager from a leading Saudi catering firm said: “Staff productivity is highly dependent on emotions. We can properly transform these emotions during this time in a positive manner to increase productivity. So I would allow my staff time to watch their favourite matches.”

The survey found that managers who were themselves inclined to watch the games were more likely to offer flexibility to their team to watch them.

Some managers said that they plan to use the World Cup as an opportunity for team building and would organise interesting competitions related to World Cup in their office.

The threat to productivity is not confined to the Middle East. According to a survey involving 100 UK business leaders by telecoms and IT services provider Coms plc, the World Cup could result in a loss to British business of 250 million working hours.

This would comprise of a rise in absence levels, late arrivals, poor performance due to lack of sleep or discussions at the workplace. A separate survey by employment law specialists ELAS puts the cost of the World Cup to Britain’s employers at £4bn in lost productivity.

According to GulfTalent, the level of productivity loss for Middle East companies may not be as severe as their European counterparts, as all the games fall outside working hours for people working a day shift.

Only a quarter of survey respondents said their companies had a specific employee policy in respect of the World Cup.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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