Kicking off today, FIFA World Cup 2014 is shaping up to be the biggest threat to business hours since the recession. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that.

Coms plc estimates that this year’s World Cup will cost businesses no less than 250,000,000 working hours. Companies are panicking over missed deadlines and a flood of sick leaves. Wolters Kluwer are saying one in 10 staff will skip work, adding that 25% of 25-34 year old men are expected to take unauthorized absence to stay on top of the World Cup.

As the British would say, keep calm and use this opportunity to boost employee engagement and win loyalty points.

Here are some tips:

1. Show flexibility but set some rules

This is a huge sporting event, some would argue the biggest sporting event on Earth. Use it wisely to reward your team. Build relations, watch some games together. This is a great opportunity to keep people close instead of losing them.

Set some clear rules for having time off but keep it honest. You can adopt a first come first served basis or deal with multiple holiday requests by way of a lottery to control some of the absence that is due to happen. Also, you could implement flexible time shifts.

Put up a big schedule of the World Cup on the wall and have people sign their names when and where they want to watch the games. It can give you a chance to bond and also keep track of your employees.

Have your own company football schedule for after-hours at the office. (Don’t forget snacks!)

Here are the 2014 World Cup TV listings and game schedule, courtesy of The Washington Post.

2. Have fun with it

Get people excited about their teams and have “Support your team” week. You might need someone with conflict management skills to handle the fiery spirit of sports competitiveness.

Decorate the office and get everyone involved. You could hold a football competition of your own to wake up some of those sitting muscles during the weekend.

Form teams and set up lunch-break polls on who will win the Cup. The winning team can get one free-day pass to watch all the games if they win the poll and deliver on their weekly business objectives.

Here’s another idea: make your own “penalty cards” to keep football fans on track. Give-out frowny yellow cards to those who are mismanaging the newly installed time flexibility and green smiley cards to the real team players.

3. Maximize the boost of energy

All that engagement better be channeled towards company goals or else this is all just one chaotic experiment. Make-up for the flexible time arrangements by capitalizing on the extra energy during actual working hours.

What you could do is set-up work marathons in between games. Keep a scoreboard and invite other teams to join in a competition.

Arm your managers with the right objectives and tools to get results going and foster all that dynamic force. Set-up team competitions and challenges that can help re-balance the workload.

 4. Have some much-needed resources around the office

Food, fruits, energy bars and lots of hydrating fluids. You can never be too prepared and if you’re going to get through this event, you’ll need resources.

If you’re worried about the financial investment you could set-up a survival corner and have people bring their own FIFA-aid kit.

Have a snack corner where employees can recharge their batteries.

5. Be human. Get everyone in the same room and talk expectations.

Get your team together and talk to them, don’t impose policies and expect compliancy. Be a human being and layout the business objectives, clients expectations, yours and their expectations and, of course, the approach you want to take during this event.

Get them on board with a commonly agreed plan and make the most out of this massive world phenomena.

You could use some of your team’s inputs to find the right solution for everyone.

Your employees will have a month to try and play the hand of God on you, so why not put your own offiside rules in place to make everyone happy?

What are you doing in your company during FIFA season?

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