GCC employers to face higher staff absences due to FIFA

  • One in three employees plan to watch the matches during working hours
  • Some employees plan to leave work early, take annual leave or call in sick, in order to watch the games
  • Employees working remotely more likely to call in sick to watch the games

Employers across the Middle East are set to witness a major slowdown in their operations during November and December this year as a result of staff absences and productivity slump resulting from the 2022 FIFA World Cup held in Qatar, according to findings of a survey conducted by online recruitment firm.

The tournament hosted by Qatar which will last until 18 December, is running daily between 2pm to 1am UAE times (1pm to 12 midnight in Saudi Arabia).

Based on NGT survey findings, 70 percent of employees in the region plan to watch at least some of the games, including 40% who plan to watch the games during working hours. Of these, roughly one third expect that they would be given permission to watch the games, while one in six said they would secretly watch the games by live streaming them on their computers or smartphones.

Other strategies employees reported they would use to watch the games during working hours, include requesting a full day of annual leave, leaving work early to watch the games, or simply calling in sick.

Based on NGT survey findings, employees working remotely or in hybrid mode reported being twice as likely to call in sick to watch the games, compared to those working in the office full-time.

Employer reactions vary widely, ranging from stricter attendance monitoring and punitive measures such as warnings, to giving employees a level of controlled flexibility. Some survey respondents mentioned they were permitted to take time off on days when business was less busy or to submit requests for time off to watch particular games. Some companies have setup Television screens in the office for collective game watching at certain times, or take employees out to watch the games after office hours as a team building initiative.

Travel to Doha, Qatar

Of survey respondents outside Qatar, 18% plan to travel to Qatar to watch some games in person. One-fifth of these were veteran World Cup visitors, having attended some previous tournaments. For the overwhelming majority, however, this would be their first world cup visit, thanks to proximity of the games to their country of residence.

Among Gulf nationals, travel intentions related to the World Cup were highest among UAE nationals, with one in three Emirati respondents planning to travel to Qatar. Nationals of Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, where one in four respondents stated their intention to travel, followed this. The lowest attendance percentage was for Saudi nationals, with one in five respondents planning to visit Qatar, despite the presence of the Saudi national team in the tournament.

Nonetheless, in absolute terms, Saudis are expected to constitute the largest segment of GCC nationals attending the games, given the dominant size of the Saudi population.

Among the Gulf’s major expatriate groups, Indian and Pakistani professionals are the main segments expected to attend the games in significant numbers.

Based on NGT survey findings, those travelling to Qatar are planning to take an average of one week of annual leave each. Given the high volume of travelers, this is likely to lead to a significant rate of overall absences and adversely impact essential operations. Businesses in the UAE are expected to be hit particularly hard, with staff shortages resulting from the combined effect of football-related leaves, national day holidays at the beginning of December and Christmas-related travel in the latter part of the month.

Survey Methodology

NGT research was based on an online survey of 5,000 professionals based across nine countries in the Middle East and employed in different industries. NGT is a leading online recruitment portal in the Middle East, used by over 5 million experienced professionals from all sectors and job categories. It serves as the primary source of both local and expatriate talent to over 11,000 of the largest employers and recruitment agencies across the region.

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