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Serious insight for serious situations.

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“Help! The World Cup is turning my employees into crazy people!”

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If you’ve seen photographs or video footage of the home town crowds watching World Cup games in this tournament so far, then you might be asking yourself, “Don’t these people have jobs?” The fact is, many of them do and at least some of them are likely skipping out on those jobs in order to catch their team playing its latest match.

Managing employee engagement at a time of such significant distraction can be a challenge. We have outlined below the various things we have been hearing from some of our employer clients and some suggestions on how you might handle these same situations:

An employee calls in sick coincidentally on the same days that her favorite team is playing.

  • This one is tricky because it could be a legitimate illness, especially if it happens on only one occasion, although the odds increase that the employee is malingering if they continue to miss the days that their team is scheduled to play. Calling the employee’s absence into question can be interpreted as an accusation that they’re lying.
  • In light of this, you might overlook the first absence, but advise the employee that the second absence will require a doctor’s note. Whatever you do, you should be sure to follow whatever policies or procedures you have in place dealing with sick time. Deviating from set protocol could be seen as singling out, which could be especially problematic if it turns out that the employee really was ill.

IT has just informed us that one employee in particular is spending an inordinate amount of time live-streaming the games while he should be working.

  • A good place to start with this one is with any policy you have in place dealing with the use of company electronic equipment and the internet. If you don’t have a policy which restricts or limits this practice, now’s a good time to think about implementing or updating.
  • Basically, this is a case where you have what appears to be clear evidence that the employee is not working when he should be. You can deal with this by meeting with the employee, presenting him with what you have found and asking for an explanation. Assuming he admits the practice, you can give clear directions on expected behaviour going forward and the consequence for non-compliance.
  • You could also decide to address this on a broader scale by simply communicating company-wide that it has been brought to your attention that employees are watching games during working hours, that this practice is not acceptable and that employees are reminded that they should limit viewing time to lunch, breaks and after hours. Chances are, once the offender knows that his activity is being monitored, he’ll stop.

An employee has been coming in either late or bleary-eyed each morning since the World Cup started. The suspicion is that she’s out partying every night and now it’s beginning to affect her work.

  • Employers have every right to expect their employees to arrive for work on time and ready to work. If this isn’t happening, then some form of discussion or even discipline may be appropriate.
  • What is recommended here is a discussion with the employee to first try and find out what is causing the sub-par behaviour. The assumption about World Cup partying may not be correct and if there is some other personal issue at play, such as something that relates to family status or a disability, there may actually be a duty to provide some form of accommodation. Best to find out what’s going on and then appropriate action can be taken.

Employers can take comfort that this will all be over in a few weeks, although it seems like with online access, there is always some distraction for a willing employee (think Sochi Olympics Women’s Gold Medal hockey game). Many of these issues can be anticipated and minimized through good policies which deal with things like appropriate internet usage, sick time and lateness and absenteeism. If you haven’t already, this might be an opportunity to look at some of the issues which are proving vexing this World Cup and get to work on implementing strategies that can be put in place long before the games start again in 2018.

Christine Thomlinson