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People & Team


World Cup productivity: Trust your staff now and reap benefits later

World Cup in office
Technology means businesses will struggle to stop covert watching of games

While it may be tempting to crack down on employees getting caught up in World Cup fervour, adopting an approach based on trust and accountability can create a buoyant atmosphere that lasts beyond that final whistle.

With 24 out of 52 football World Cup games taking place in the traditional Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm working window, there have been lots of moments for disruption in companies around the UK.

On top of that, accessibility in the form of online streaming and smartphone apps mean it’s possible to follow games live without even needing to hunt out a TV.

However, as Be the Business found out by speaking with a number of management teams throughout the UK, throwing a blanket over the event could do more damage than good.

At UK Car Finance, based in Newcastle, the decision was taken to sponsor the large TV in Newcastle’s Time Square – and the attitude towards six weeks of football has been led by that. MD Craig Rutherford said the company’s “relaxed approach” has ensured that everyone who wants to enjoy the match is encouraged to do so.

“We believe our approach to the World Cup has had a positive impact on productivity. We have less members of staff taking days of, so have our full workforce in. We also believe that happy employees are productive employees,” he explained.

“I think companies which are strict on allowing staff to enjoy events are selling themselves short. They may be missing out on vital members of staff who end up taking holidays or sick days, which decreases productivity.”

Football facts

  • Over half of firms say approach to sport has a positive impact on employee engagement
  • Only 25 per cent encountering people management issues as a direct result World Cup
  • Majority make special arrangements for major sporting events taking place during working hours
  • Employers favour taking an informal approach when it comes to managing the workplace impact

At Distinct Recruitment in Nottingham, a large TV is a constant in the office. Normally relaying news updates and team presentations, World Cup games have recently taken priority.

“This doesn’t mean we’re all sat starting at the game not doing any work, but it does allow those who want to keep an eye on the event to take a couple of minutes every now and then to stay up to date,” explained CEO James Calder.

“Employees will be keeping on top of the scores on their computers of phones anyway, so at least having a communal TV showing the games makes the experience more inclusive and does help to set a relaxed working atmosphere.

When it comes to events like the World Cup, such as Wimbledon or the Olympics, Robert Ordever, MD at O.C. Tanner Europe in Essex, believes most businesses spend too much time worrying about the negatives and forget the human element. “I would suggest businesses embrace these events as they bring people together all over the world,” he added. “Our vision is to help companies everywhere create great workplace cultures, so we work hard to lead by example.”

Going one step further is Impression, a digital marketing company with sites in London and Nottingham. Football, MD Aaron Dicks told us, is a great way to keep fit. “We thought, why not use the World Cup as an excuse to run our own inter-agency league,” he said.

“For our own employees, it’s a great way to get moving and stay healthy. It’s also brilliant for team morale, especially when we win. Being seen to be active within our own local business community is also good for our brand, so it’s a win-win situation.”

With lots of sporty people in the business, Dicks will be looking out for similar opportunities in the future.

Rounding off our look at how businesses have handled the World Cup is Forza Football, a company with a genuine stake in the game. Patrik Arnesson CEO and founder at the company, which is actually based in Sweden, said sport serves as a unique way to bring together people of all nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds.

“My employees are allowed to watch any World Cup match that they want. This isn’t a reward for my staff, it’s a simple show of trust. I know that if my team spend time watching games they will make up for it later, and they won’t abuse the system,” he added.

“It is best to have complete trust in your team, because then they will be happier and more productive. The World Cup is a great opportunity to show this kind of trust, and the impact of this will last far beyond the tournament.”

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