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Shoot and Score: Flexible Working and the World Cup

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Flexible working provides the opportunity for employees to find a work-life balance that fits their day-to-day routine, including childcare responsibilities, hobbies or even an intense exercise training regime. But what about significant national events?

According to legal firm DLA Piper, 51% of employers are investigating the option of flexible working for staff during the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil this summer.

Many of the UK's biggest brands, and largest employers, are open about their flexible working practices, some of which have been specially devised to allow staff to watch World Cup matches. For example, McDonalds is facilitating shift swapping as part of its initiative, which 8 in 10 of its employees are set to take advantage of.

HR leaders know that one of the most common workplace issues that can arise during events like the World Cup is increased absenteeism. During the last World Cup in South Africa, unplanned time off jumped 42.5% on the day of England's World Cup group match against Algeria. This can be reduced or avoided by providing flexible working options.

According to supermarket giant Asda (part of the Walmart group) the decision to allow extended breaks and field individual requests for days off during previous tournaments meant that the company saw no increase in absenteeism.

But despite positive evidence that flexible working helps maintain productivity levels during this kind of event, 60% of UK businesses are still not offering flexible working at all. During the World Cup, only 19% plan to offer flexible working patterns for the World Cup matches in which England is not playing and 76% plan to offer no flexibility at all to staff who don't follow football. It will be interesting to see how they determine who is, or isn't a fan.

It's not just the UK. German union bosses have publicly called for employers to implement flexible working for football-supporting workers, as well as allowing them to start work later the day after Germany's World Cup games. Because of the time difference, many matches in Brazil will kick off after midnight in Germany.

For those organisations planning to implement flexible working scenarios during the World Cup, there are a few important things to consider:

• For employees still coming into the office, you need to have clearly thought through your acceptable internet usage policy, and made you staff aware of it. Only 18% of businesses have ensured this. Do you have available bandwidth for your team to stream their team's games over your network?

• 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? 72% of EMEA business decision makers say that video conferencing is a key element to a flexible working strategy, making flex-workers more productive. A range of software and apps makes this available on desktops, laptops, tablets & smartphones

• What World Cup teams do your employees support? Don't assume that all of your employees will support the national team of your company's location. Remember to be inclusive and support flexible working throughout the tournament, to avoid discriminating against employees with differing nationalities
• The World Cup can be a great team-bonding experience, with fans coming together to enjoy the spectacle. If you plan on encouraging this on site, make sure you have a clear and available policy regarding celebrations

• Maintaining team collaboration is important, especially when some team members are off-site. This can be done through fun initiatives (such as a World Cup sweepstake), as well as using collaboration technology to maintain productivity when working on shared documents

The World Cup is a global event. It's great to be able to allow employees to support their team, as well as ensuring maintained 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 to improve job satisfaction and build loyalty with your employees, by enabling them to enjoy this sporting event through a flexible working initiative.