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Middle East work productivity to fall during football World Cup

Middle East work productivity to fall during football World Cup

GulfTalent found a significant number of workers played to watch games at work, leave the office early or stay up late

The 2018 FIFA World Cup, set to begin in Russia later this week, will result in a “major productivity drop” across the Middle East, according to a new survey.

Recruitment firm GulfTalent said the particularly high representation in the tournament this year from Arab teams including Saudi Arabia and Egypt would mean a big impact on the labour market.

Games will begin on June 14 with Saudi Arabia facing Russia and run between 2:00pm and 1:00am UAE time each day until the end of the event on July 15.

The company’s survey of 8,000 professionals across 10 Middle Eastern countries found 92 per cent plan to watch at least some games, including 84 per cent of women and 93 per cent of men.

More than one in four (28 per cent) respondents admitted they planned to watch some of the games during work hours, of which one third expected to get permission to do so and a quarter intended to watch games by live steaming secretly on computers or smartphones.

Others planned to watch games by taking annual leave, leaving work early and calling in sick.

Employees found most likely to watch games secretly at their desks were accountants, customer service professionals were mostly likely to take annual leave and civil engineers were mostly likely to leave early to watch games.

GulfTalent said productivity would also be lost through employees staying up late to watch games, with two thirds of those surveyed planning to catch late matches even if it meant losing sleep.

Of those planning to stay up, 74 per cent said they would cut down on sleep to get into work on time, 17 per cent planned to go in late, 8 per cent said they would take the next day as annual leave and 1 per cent planned to call in sick.

Interestingly, managers were found to be just as interested in games as junior employees.

Nearly a third (32 per cent) of senior executives and company director planned to watch games during work hours compared to an overall staff average of 28 per cent.

However, rather than streaming on phones they said they would watch games on company televisions.

Overall, 67 per cent of managers said they would consider allowing staff to watch some games at work if the workload wasn’t too heavy.

Managers planning to watch the games themselves were the most likely to consider this option and even to give staff time off to watch their favourite teams.

Across the Middle East, GulfTalent said companies with poor or inadequate guidelines would take the biggest loss to productivity through absenteeism and staff distraction during the World Cup.

However, only 16 per cent of managers said they had a specific policy in place.

Of these, some were found to involve punitive measures such as stricter time and attendance monitoring and others would give employees an early leave allowance if they had met targets or even allow collective game watching as a team building activity.

Beyond work commitments, one potential consideration for some fans in the region could be just finding a way to watch legally.

Reports last week suggested Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera had failed to reach a deal with Saudi Arabia to broadcast the games as a rift between the two countries enters a second year.

Read: Saudi football fans may miss out on World Cup amid Qatar broadcasting spat

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