The World Cup is upon us – in America the sport they call soccer (and which to the rest of the world is football) is likely to take over the workplace in many countries. Employers can expect requests for working from home, mysterious illnesses attacking people just as a crucial match is coming up and of course tiredness as certain employees spend a whole night watching match after match.
It will be worse outside the US, where American football and baseball are much more popular. Elsewhere, soccer is ingrained into the culture. So, how do you get employees working?
Technology – It used to be the case that technology would enable smarter working to take place, and to an extent this is still the case. If someone really wants to be at home watching a match they can still keep on top of emails, there can be a quick video conference catch-up at half time.
However, this isn’t a technology problem. Like a lot of smarter working issues it’s about a company’s business patterns and working culture. So here are my management tips on how to work smarter over this period:
1. Consider making an event of it: Your football-loving colleagues will not have the same focus as they normally do – this is a massive distraction. So how about hiring a big TV or using a big screen if you have one and viewing the matches that take place during working hours, if you’re in the right time zone, as a group thing? Or go to a bar where they have a big TV. This works because it incentivises staff, they’ll be grateful for the time and are therefore likely to work harder in the meantime. If you have a multicultural staff maybe people could bring in foods from the various countries playing when the matches are on, for a buffet?
2. Don’t manage by exception, though: Sport can unite a workforce but it can also divide it. People who don’t like football won’t welcome the idea that the enthusiasts are getting special treatment, so think about what you can do for them – just some time off? A cinema trip or something? Excluding people unintentionally is a hazard – don’t fall for it.
3. Make smarter working part of your organisation: Managing when there’s a special event on would have been easier if you’d had flexibility shot through your organisation as part of the fabric in the first place, so use this as an opportunity to reassess how you manage your staff overall. Do they have to be there the whole time if a task is going to be carried out, or should you just check that the objectives are met? If they have a particular interest – sporting event, family event, Star Trek Convention, anything at all – is there any harm in their working around that if it doesn’t hit your bottom line?
There’s going to be a lot of World Cup around, very soon and it’s going to be ubiquitous. Work with it and you can have some fun – use it as a spur to consider how your organisation works when something else is going on and there can be major long-term gains.
P. S. If you have a lot of home workers don’t forget to invite them to any events – and if you have freelancers working for you, invite them too if it’s affordable. We won’t always turn up, but we rarely forget who’s been kind enough to think of us!
Guy Clapperton is co-author of “The Smarter Working Manifesto“