Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lessons From the FIFA World Cup

Business owners around the world are breathing a collective sigh of relief now that the grand spectacle that is the FIFA World Cup has come to a close, signaling, at long last, that it is back to business as usual. Although soccer doesn’t have the deep roots in North America as it does in other parts of the world, the FIFA World Cup is widely regarded as the planet’s most important and widely viewed sporting event, and one reaches a truly global audience. The World Cup only takes place every four years and this year’s host nation, Brazil, is the country whose economy is most directly affected by the tournament. But the month-long tournament also has enormous economic impacts on other countries as well. Some of the numbers related to the tournament (mostly concerning the US economy), provided by InsideView are staggering. For example, 80% of the world’s population will watch some part of the World Cup; the US, it is estimated, lost $390 million in productivity during their group match game against Germany alone; and the World Cup will cost the British economy 250 million working hours. During the World Cup, quite literally, the world stops.

Where is all this productivity lost?

The biggest area affecting productivity is from workers who actually take sick days in order to watch their nation compete in games. But it gets worse. An estimated 10% of workers will come in late for work having stayed up late to watch the games. And who knows how much time and productivity is lost from workers sneaking a peak during working hours or just conversing about the tournament. All in all, as far as productivity is concerned, the World Cup amounts to a colossal distraction.

Steer Into the Skid

Some business owners’ strategies, in light of these statistics, can be to implement draconian-like policies for the duration of the tournament. But, some business owners are finding that the best solution is not just to not fight it, but to embrace the tournament, and see it as an opportunity to enhance other aspects of the business. According to Mercer research in four Latin American countries, it showed that on average over 87% of businesses are willing “to be flexible during the World Cup in offering employees short-term benefits that may have a positive impact on long-term productivity and morale”.

Specific Strategies

Many businesses are coming up with ways to make the World Cup accessible to their employees while keeping a steady workflow. They include things like allowing employees to leave work early or be flexible with their working hours, watching their nation play while working from home, and even equipping their break rooms with TVs that show the games.

The Lasting Impact

A recent Forbes article even found that the World Cup can actually have a positive impact on the bottom line of a company by boosting morale. Neal Taparia, Co-CEO of Imagine Easy Solutions, described the buzz of excitement around the office by their policy of embracing the tournament and playing all of the games in one of their conference rooms, suggesting that it connected employees to each other and to the products they design.

There’s much to learn from the World Cup, as it will surely test employee commitment. At the end of the day, the World Cup is never the difference between success and failure, but reveals much about the connection between the management and the employees.

Links to studies and works referenced in this article: