Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Football World Cup: a disruptive influence or an opportunity?

The long wait is nearly over. On the 12th June Brazil take on Croatia at the Arena de Sao Paulo in Brazil to officially kick start one of the biggest, if not the biggest, sporting event in the world – the football World Cup. Over the course of 31 days, 32 countries will battle it out in 64 games for the right to be crowned world champions.

So what does this mean for business continuity planners? Well clearly the level of disruption in Brazil is a major issue but this blog isn’t about that. It’s not about the many years of disruption caused by construction projects and the rebuilding of infrastructure. Neither is it about the disruption caused by having over half a million visitors descending on the twelve host cities. This blog is more about the disruption caused by, for most people, the antisocial timings of the matches.

When we watch our own football teams (or attend any other entertainment event), it is very often at a time that is accommodating – weekends or evenings perhaps. With large international tournaments this is rarely the case. Take England's three group fixtures for example – 11pm (expect some employees to be very sleepy the next day), 5pm (expect some employees to want to leave work early) and 8pm (okay that’s more like it). This is a problem that most of the European and African countries will have. Kick off times are even more unsociable if you’re from Iran, Japan, South Korea or Australia.

In England’s case the last two World Cups (South Africa and Germany) didn’t cause any problems as the time zones were only a couple of hours away, but the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea did throw up issues with some games kicking off at 9am. Many employers chose to allow their staff to turn up a few hours late, some chose to install televisions in the office. Productivity may not have been at its highest but arguably this was a better solution than having people call in sick or just not showing up.

The timings of the games may not allow for the same solutions this time but employers still need to think about what their options are. Will their staff want to watch the games? What are the consequences of them doing so? Finally, the all-important question, what can be done to make sure this doesn't disrupt the organization?

Consider also how the World cup will impact on your organization. Will you be quieter as many of your customers will be watching the game, or will you be busier as many of your customers are the sort of people who have no interest in football and are desperate to avoid the football-mania taking place?

Of course you do not have to embrace the World Cup and you could insist that your staff are at work when they normally should be. In all likelihood this will lead to reduced morale and this will in turn reduce the overall level of productivity or service given to customers.

The World Cup is a massive event that for many countries will dictate the mood of the nation over the month that it takes place – organizations should make the most of this. Rather than thinking of it as a disruptive experience, think of it as an opportunity to enhance staff morale by allowing employees, where possible, the flexibility to watch games.

If you are allowing staff time off to watch any of the games, make it fair on all employees by creating a rota so work can still be done. You need to make sure it is fair to those who have no interest in football as they will not appreciate having all the work dumped on them.

Andrew Scott is the Senior Communications Manager at the Business Continuity Institute who joined after a brief stint working as the Press Officer for a national health charity. Prior to that he had over ten years at the Ministry of Defence working in a number of roles including communications and business continuity. During this time he also completed a Masters in Public Relations at the University of Stirling.

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