Half of employees skip work to watch FIFA world cup

How can organisations prevent the workplace impact of the tournament?

Half of employees skip work to watch FIFA world cup

Employers across the United States are being told to brace for massive absences as nearly half of Americans may miss work because of the FIFA Women's World Cup games. The tournament kicked off on July 20, 2023, where 32 women's national teams are battling out to reach the final match on August 20. The United States is the defending champion - and its popularity among the workforce is undeniable.

A UKG survey involving 1,154 respondents revealed that 54% of the US workforce plan to watch the soccer matches live, with 46% of them predicted to miss work because of the games.

According to the report, only 16% are planning to request time off in advance to watch the games and 13% plan to swap their shifts with colleagues.

Another 13% said they plan to make advance arrangements with their managers to come in late or leave work early for the games.

Employees to 'ghost' their teams

But not all employees are making advance plans to adjust their schedules, according to the report. It found that some employees plan to:

  • Come in late or leave early without letting their managers know ahead of time (10%)
  • Come in sick - even if they're not actually sick (6%)
  • "Ghost" their employer altogether or won't tell anyone they won't be coming to work (5%)

Managers are also found guilty of this - as only 40% of them said they plan to notify their teams in advance that they would be late, call in sick, or take time off to watch the games live.

Despite the other half of employees showing up to work, the UKG findings warned that this doesn't mean they won't be watching the tournaments live. According to the survey, employees who will show up to work still plan on watching the games in secret (16%).

Culture problem with absenteeism

Major sporting events driving absenteeism in the workplace is nothing new - a record-high 18.8 million employees were previously expected to miss work on the Monday after the Super Bowl evening in February. Similarly, the findings back then revealed that millions plan to "ghost" their employers and not show up to work on that day.

These findings indicate a problem on workplace culture, according to UKG, particularly on how managers handle time off requests from their employees. According to 43% of the respondents, they are "uncomfortable" requesting time off from work, with 11% rarely asking for it because their manager usually gives them a hard time.

Another 36% said they find it "difficult to request time off" from work because of difficult processes, inflexible policies, among others. For 34%, they want to save their personal or sick time for "emergencies only," while 12% said their previous time-off requests had been rejected at least once before.

Heavy workload also plays a hand on employees' hesitancies, as 22% said their responsibilities at work prevent them from taking time off.

Read next: This UKG review will help you understand the HR software tool's uses

Addressing the problem through communication

Organisations can address the potential absence problems with a lot of open communication, according to UKG chief people office Pat Wadors.

"And, as with everything in today's world of work — from taking time off to how people are paid — it all starts with our managers," Wadors said in a statement. "They need to lead the way with authentic, vulnerable, and transparent communication, so we can create productive workforce cultures built on a foundation of trust and belonging."

Other organisations are already finding work arounds to prevent World Cup-prompted absences.

Some 18% of UKG's respondents said their company is already planning bracket challenges, watch parties, social hours, and team-jersey days in a bid to bring employees together. Another 31% said they already received their manager's permission to watch the games live if they air during their working hours.

UKG stressed that the lack of transparency between employees and their managers are driving absences, loss of productivity, and erosions of trust.

"Building a better culture and a sense of belonging for employees can help companies achieve their business goals, all while making workers happier," UKG said on its website.

UKG was named as one of the Best HR Software and Technology Providers in the US. See the full list of winners here.

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