Tens of millions of fans are tuning in to watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, as excitement for the competition builds. But, with the tournament taking place in Australia and New Zealand meaning late-night/early-morning live viewing, how will the fandom impact workplaces across the United States?
A new survey out today from UKG, conducted by The Harris Poll, finds more than half of the American adult workforce (54%) plans to watch the soccer matches live—such as tomorrow’s match between the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) and Portugal kicking off at 3 a.m. ET.
The office may seem emptier than usual on Tuesday, too. Of the millions of full- and part-time employees who plan to watch the tournament live, 46% have a game plan for missing work, according to the survey. Many of those who do plan to be at work still think the soccer competition will impact their performance, as 27% of employed Americans predict they’ll be less productive than normal during the tournament, due to watching the matches, viewing post-game coverage and interviews, and talking with co-workers about the event.
Reviewing the stats
Among the employed Americans who plan to watch the soccer matches live this summer:
- 16% plan to request time off in advance, as a result of watching the games;
- 13% say they plan to swap their shift(s) with colleagues; and
- 13% are planning to make advance arrangements with their managers to come in late or leave work early.
On the opposite side of the field, other workers say they won’t reveal their absence plans in advance:
- 10% plan to come in late or leave early, without letting their managers know ahead of time;
- 6% plan to call in sick—even if they’re not actually sick; and
- 5% plan to “ghost” their employer altogether, not telling anyone that they’ll be a no-show.
Of note, team leaders themselves aren’t leading by example, as just 40% of people managers who plan to go in late, call in sick, or take time off say they plan to personally notify their teams of their planned absence in advance due to watching the tournament live.
Risking red cards
Nearly half of full- and part-time employees watching the games live plan to miss work. Just because the other half plan to show up to work, however, it doesn’t mean they won’t be watching the Women’s World Cup live.
In our survey, some workers revealed they’re even willing to risk a proverbial red card—that is, a workplace penalty—to avoid missing the action: 16% say they’ll watch in secret, behind their managers’ backs. It wouldn’t be the first time for many, as 1 in 5 employed Americans (20%) say they’ve watched a live sporting event during working hours in secret or without their managers knowing.
Conversely, 13% of full- and part-time employees who are planning to watch the games live say they wouldn’t dare watch the soccer matches while on the clock—because their manager “would never allow that.” Moreover, 18% say they wouldn’t because their workload doesn’t allow for it, and 17% say it wouldn’t be possible for them to watch at their place of work.
As for what’s driving this secrecy and deception at work, many employed Americans point to culture-related concerns. Just like there are no timeouts in soccer, a number of employed Americans aren’t able to take much-needed breaks from work either. Employees cite workplace challenges such as scheduling complexities, heavy workloads, unreasonable managers, and a general lack of paid time off:
- 43% say they find it “uncomfortable” requesting time off from work, and 11% rarely request time off because their manager usually gives them a hard time about it;
- 36% say their company makes it “difficult to request time off” from work (e.g., processes are difficult to follow, solutions are difficult to use, policies are inflexible);
- 34% say they generally save their personal/sick time for “emergencies only,” so it doesn’t run out;
- 22% each say they rarely take time off work due to their heavy workloads, or otherwise can’t afford to; and
- 12% have had a time-off request rejected at least once before, and 9% say they typically make up an excuse last minute if they want to miss work, so their managers can’t refuse it.
Only 23% of employed Americans say they use their allotted time off whenever and however they like, rarely or never feeling pressure to work when they don’t want to.
Designing a culture playbook
These troubling survey findings mirror those of a similar survey from the UKG Workforce Institute surrounding Super Bowl absenteeism, which has tracked for nearly 20 years how many American employees plan to miss work because of the big game. This past February, the UKG survey found a record 18.8 million Americans expected to be absent from the workplace either on Super Bowl Sunday or the Monday after—with 4.7 million saying they’d be ghosting their employers, too.
The lack of transparency between employees and managers creates a mounting problem in the forms of unplanned absence, lost productivity, and erosion of trust—all serious issues that could be tackled by more honest communication and greater workplace flexibility. Building a better culture and a sense of belonging for employees can help companies achieve their business goals, all while making workers happier.
Some organizations already recognize the positive impacts of camaraderie and employee engagement, as the UKG Women’s World Cup survey found nearly 1 in 5 (18%) employed Americans say their company is planning activities around the tournament to bring employees together, such as bracket challenges, watch parties, social hours, and team-jersey days. Moreover, if the matches do air during their working hours, 31% of full- and part-time employed Americans who are planning to watch the games live said they’ll watch with a manager’s permission.
When companies focus on their people, they’re better equipped for success. By fostering trust among employees and managers, increasing transparency and communication, and enabling collaboration through teamwork, your team’s bound to win—even if you’re not competing in the Women’s World Cup!
To dive deeper into what organizations can do to build people-centric cultures of trust and belonging for all employees, download the UKG + Great Place To Work Culture Playbook.