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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Eric Wong

Managing soccer-crazed employees in Singapore

BY ERIC WONG

The world’s premier sporting event is here – The Fifa sanctioned football World Cup in Brazil. This is the one event that has such an impact on employee productivity and attendance that has business owners and managers in Singapore tearing their hair out with frustration.

A recent survey of football enthusiasts in Singapore found that 40% of those who were interested in the World Cup intended to stay up for games before heading in to the office. This may lead to a series of issues including tardy arrivals, absenteeism, listlessness at work as well as a spike in medical issues due to a sleep deprivation and lack of rest.

Another study reported widely in international press, noted that roughly 30% of the test subjects who lacked sleep and proper rest behaved erratically and were more prone to temper tantrums.

Human resources leaders and practitioners in Singapore recognise these problems especially the impact on that productivity as a result of increased absenteeism. While they indicate having policies in place to deal with behavioural issues and misconduct, they admit that such absenteeism can fall into a ‘grey area’.

During the last World Cup in South Africa, employers in Singapore shared similar concerns, with the time difference resulting in live broadcasts at 2:30 am. This year, with the time difference between Brazil and Singapore, most games are expected to air live at times between 12:00 am and 6:00 am.

Employers and human resource leaders have a choice. They can implement a strict no tolerance policy or apply some flexibility to deal with this phenomenon. By acknowledging that inevitably some employees are going to deprive themselves of sleep and stay up late to catch the World Cup games, enterprises can manage an undesirable situation more effectively.

By introducing a flexible and an understanding culture enterprises can avoid fostering an unhealthy work environment. Football fever is a very real “affliction” and Brazil 2014 is a great opportunity for employers to foster a more inclusive and increase company loyalty. Through viewing this as an opportunity to improve morale through support for the employees, leaders can make the best of a testing situation.

According to the Randstad 2014 World of work report, 55% of employers in Singapore rate their implementation of flexiworking as average or poor, even though half of employees surveyed indicated that flexible working conditions were one of their main considerations for staying with an organisation. 

For organisations planning to shore up their flexible working policies during the World Cup, here are a few pointers that might help:

·         For employees working late in the office, you need to have clearly thought through your acceptable internet usage policy, and made your staff aware of it. Will your company allow employees to check the latest scores online?

·         If you’re going to allow your staff to work from home, think about how they are going to stay productive - what technology do they need? Video conferencing is a key element to a flexible working strategy.

·         What World Cup teams do your employees support? Don’t assume that all of your employees will support the same few teams. Remember to be inclusive and support flexible working throughout the tournament, to avoid discriminating against employees with differing nationalities, and loyalties.

·         Maintaining team collaboration is important, especially when some team members are dispersed across different geographic regions or working from home. This can be done through fun initiatives (such as a World Cup sweepstake), as well as using collaboration technology such as a shared calendar or document storage to maintain productivity.

The World Cup is a global event. It’s great to be able to allow employees to support their team, as well as ensuring high levels of productivity through flexible working initiatives.

Whether you are continuing to develop an existing policy, or enabling your team to work flexibly for the first time, it’s important to consider the impact that the tournament will have on your employees and workflow.

Brazil 2014 is a great chance for companies in Singapore to improve job satisfaction and build loyalty with their employees. Embrace it, introduce, and promote flexibility. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Eric Wong

Eric Wong

Eric Wong is Head of Talent Acquisition & Development (APJ and China) at Polycom. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering, and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS).

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