With the World Cup finally off to a start I’m wondering if any office casualties occurred this morning. Were there any bleary eyed hungover employees or is that just the standard in the City on a Friday these days? (Thursdays are the new Fridays after all.) In saying that, a lot of businesses hugely underestimate the effect of something like the World Cup, despite it being the largest single-event sporting competition, attracting an audience of nearly 3 billion people globally – several million of whom are in the UK.

According to a recent article on business comms, British businesses are set to lose about 250, 000 working hours due to three-quarters of UK businesses providing communal areas for staff to watch matches during the working day – bearing in mind the earliest game is 5 o’clock, this is quite something! That is a huge loss over 8 weeks but I think the real loss will be felt in the potential decreased productivity, more so when companies don’t accommodate for the event.

Flexible working is so common today that some employers are already factoring this in. But this alone will not provide a solution, never mind the fact that if you don’t already offer this, you may not have the necessary technology to implement it over the 8 weeks of the world cup. In addition to this there will be sneaky score checking (how much can the office broadband handle?), late arrivals (or absences) after those 11pm kick-off’s and those ‘meetings’ arranged at the end of the day to allow for early leaving? Ad hoc rules don’t work for this type of event – policies need to be established before and monitored during it. Everyone needs to be absolutely clear on the expectations of the business and what is and isn’t acceptable and this needs to be across the board too.

The World Cup is a festive event and allowing employees a bit of flexibility over this period makes for better engagement long-term whilst your employees can acknowledge that management aren’t a grumpy bunch of mean-spirited grinches. It’s a tricky task to balance and it needs to be done right. If this is the first time you’re thinking about it, then you might be a bit late!  I guess when we look back in 8 weeks we’ll see exactly how much productivity has been affected, but if England put on a good show then most people probably won’t mind.  Although in the culturally diverse landscape that is the UK today, there is certainly more than one team being supported!

I for one have just drawn Costa Rica and Ghana in the work sweepstake and having checked the odds on the giant poster on our board I can see my returns are likely to be slim.  So I’ll be getting into the spirit of things for just that – the spirit of things!  As my native South Africa didn’t qualify, I’ll back my adoptive home (come on England) and look forward to 4 weeks where we can talk about something other than the weather!

Kerry is a Consultant in London and wishes she had drawn holiday destinations instead of potential winners.