World Cup season a time for bonding

SINGAPORE - Before excitement over the World Cup hits fever pitch, companies here can prepare themselves for the desperate steps their football-crazy employees might take to catch a match.

Still, experts say bosses should consider being a little flexible, for instance, regarding late starts.

They could even turn football fever to their advantage, boosting office morale by screening matches in staff areas, say the experts.

Recruitment website eFinancialCareers ran an online poll last month of 268 bank executives and finance professionals based in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, to understand how football fever might affect companies, in order to help them plan ahead.

It found that 75 per cent of the respondents plan to catch this year's World Cup - which kicks off in Brazil on Thursday - even though the matches will be aired in the small hours across Asia, including in Singapore.

Most of the matches will be from 3am to 6am Singapore time, and the final will start at 3am. A match typically lasts 90 minutes.

Mr Chris Mead, regional director of Hays in Singapore, says it will all depend on the game and the kick-off time.

He says staff are likely to come to work after having had a late night if they catch games scheduled from Sundays to Thursdays.

The poll showed that work would not get in the way for 26 per cent of the respondents, who plan to "work all day and watch all night".

Another 10 per cent intend to call in sick, while 8 per cent say they will take annual leave just for the love of the game.

Ms Linda Teo, ManpowerGroup's country manager for Singapore, points out that the local workforce is generally responsible.

She says there could be "a small minority who will take medical leave if their leave requests are rejected or if they do not have enough leave left".

Mr George McFerran, sales and marketing director at eFinancialCareers, says companies that plan ahead, taking employee interests and business needs into consideration, "will be best placed during the World Cup period".

Mr Mead suggests that companies should schedule time off as they would during a normal holiday period. And some flexibility regarding late starts might be appreciated by staff, he notes.

"They are likely to find productivity being sustained and might even see improved morale in the medium to long term," he says.

Thankfully, not everyone is a football fanatic, which means productivity levels should be maintained.

The survey found that 26 per cent of the respondents have no interest in the competition and 22 per cent will watch just the highlights.

Companies can actually turn the World Cup season to their advantage in many little ways, to boost morale.

Mr McFerran suggests screening football highlights in the office pantry, which would suit the 22 per cent who say they will catch the high points only. It could even boost social interaction and team-building, he adds.

Some companies plan to go all the way.

Ms Teo says: "We have heard of companies with a high percentage of football lovers that have arranged to screen the World Cup finals in their offices, with food and beverages thrown in.

"Some of them might even purchase cable facilities so that their staff can stay in the office to watch the preliminary matches."

Still, she notes, such arrangements are more common in environments with flexible work schedules, for instance, in advertising and consultancy firms.

Staff who support offices in different countries could be allowed to work as a tag team in the spirit of the World Cup.

Mr McFerran suggests: "In some business functions, shift swops could help ensure consistent coverage, as well as give people the chance to watch their team play."

The love of food could bring staff together as well.

Mr Mead says companies can consider holding "World Cup food days", during which staff can bring in snacks and drinks associated with the various competing countries. Think nachos from Mexico and sushi from Japan, he says.

On a more practical note, Ms Teo reminds companies to encourage staff to plan their work schedules and apply for annual leave early.

Addressing real concerns such as a shortage of manpower during busy periods, she adds: "If the need arises, companies can arrange to hire temporary staff, depending on the nature of work."

This article was first published on June 9, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.