We Are One.
That's the official World Cup 2014 song. And, it does look to be true as communities come together to celebrate, attaching flags to their cars and hosting parties and celebrations.
But what's a boss to do when World Cup fever leads to soccer sadness at work? After all, an employer still needs all hands on deck when it comes to running a company – despite the fact that England has been eliminated, Spain and Portugal are out, and biting Uruguay striker Luis Suarez has been given a long suspension.
For the next few weeks, here's what we recommend employers and employees keep in mind; have compassion for each other. And, we know it's a little tough right now balancing work and soccer. After all, many members of our firm are cheering for the Italian soccer team. So, we'll feel their triumphs and defeats, but with a little (a lot) less emotion.
Employers know soccer fans are staying up late and getting up early to watch the matches, because many games are aired in the middle of the night in Canada. And, as a result, employees often end up calling in sick, or showing up at work noticeably tired.
Our tip to employees: don't call in sick unless you're actually not well. It doesn't count if you're sick of your favourite soccer team's losses. Instead, book time off to watch the big game, and be honest about the reason. It's better for your company and co-workers if you do this, rather than being present at work but unproductive.
In fact, employers may want to send an e-mail to their staff stating that they would rather they book time off than show up distracted. It sends a message; if you show up, do the work. You can't call it in. It also sends a message that the company understands that life is not all about work, and that as an employer, they understand that – sometimes – other things will get in the way. Insisting on "business as usual" is a sure-fire way to generate employee discontent.
If your company allows working from home, this may be a good time to remind employees of this option. If not, perhaps now is the time to consider it. However, have a clear set of deliverables so you know projects are being worked on, it's just happening outside of the standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. day.
Employers will do well if they show both flexibility and compassion. They will do even better if they set up a television in a boardroom or lunch room and allow employees to take some time away from their desks to watch a game together. Planning outings to watch a big game will score big points with staff. The goal: try to see the World Cup games as a way of promoting employee engagement and team building. This is what helps companies become employers of choice as well as attract and retain top talent. So, go ahead and set aside some time, even if it's a few minutes, to cheer on your favourite team together.
What employers shouldn't do is plan important meetings at a time that coincides with a big game. It's just easier to re-schedule rather than fight to keep the attention of die-hard fans.
The World Cup tournament is an exciting event that comes around once every four years. Employers shouldn't allow it to have a negative impact upon workplace morale by showing that they are only concerned with productivity. Flexibility and understanding are critical, as is communication. By setting reasonable expectations and communicating them to employees, the message is clear; you want this to be a fun time, and are willing to be flexible and allow employees to enjoy the World Cup to an extent. However, they will also be expected to do their part and carry out their duties. When done properly, employers can use the World Cup to foster employee engagement and loyalty, which, in the long run, will create a winning team.
Natalie MacDonald and Stuart Rudner are co-founders of the employment law firm Rudner MacDonald LLP. Ms. MacDonald is the author of Extraordinary Damages in Canadian Employment Law. Mr. Rudner is the author of You're Fired! Just Cause for Dismissal in Canada.