According to  recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers, 53% of working males and one in five females (21%) in South Africa intend to watch the 2010 World Cup matches scheduled to take place during office hours as they happen.

Out of a pool of 1 000 workers, 14% will be watching with work permission, 9% will use flexi time or take annual leave and 5% intends to watch without permission or call in sick.
Samantha Crous, GM of the CRF Institute, says that employers should not see these findings as a negative, fearing high numbers of absenteeism and low productivity. Instead, employers can take the opportunity to engage with their employees.
“It is going to be important for employers to meet their staff half way so that the World Cup experience is positive for both parties,” she says.
Michael Rendall, partner and leader of human resources for PricewaterhouseCoopers said: “There is huge goodwill to be gained by accommodating flexible working requests or allowing staff to take a couple of hours out to watch the games. With pay rises scarce and bonus pools down, this is a great way to thank and engage staff while bringing a very tangible opportunity to revisit and communicate flexible working hours,” he says.
Crous agrees and points out that it is inevitable that workforce productivity will be affected by the World Cup, but says that if employers are clear upfront about what their policies are during this time and are completely transparent with their staff then there is a lot to be gained.
“Being a good employer means engaging with your employees on all matters that are important to them. Companies that do this effectively will gain the respect of their employees and this could have a positive ripple effect on the reputation of that company.”
Crous also says that organisations should take advantage of the camaraderie that the World Cup will bring. “There is no doubt that this great sporting event will bring a level of euphoria for most South Africans – employers should aim to be part of that by using the event as a chance to connect or reconnect with their staff,” she comments.
A practical way to do this, according to Rendall, is to put up screens in the workplace or even support online viewing.
Crous cautions, however, that it would be unwise to do any of this without talking to staff about the policies that will be implemented around time off, flexibility, absenteeism etc.
Findings from the 2009 Best Employers SA campaign show that there is a strong link between organisations that effectively engage and communicate with staff and those who are certified as Best Employers to work for in the country.
Crous explains that organisations that do well within these HR benchmarks have clear channels of communication that allow employees to provide their input on company issues, and help establish programmes to support a work-life balance.
The overarching aim of Best Employers is to certify and increase the visibility of leading South African organisations with a demonstrable commitment to 11 HR policy benchmark categories – Communication and Employee Engagement are two of these. Through this HR policy process the CRF Institute certifies leading SA brands as best employers which are recognised and promoted to talent each year.
“The most qualified job seekers have higher aspirations and will seek out the best organisations in terms of employer brand – employers, especially in areas where skills are scarce, can’t afford not to adopt positive human resources strategies and achieve visibility in the labour market,” says Crous.
“The 2010 World Cup should be viewed by all organisations as a key opportunity to revisit HR policies, particularly within the areas of communication and engagement to the benefit of both employer and employee.”