Some staff expected to call in sick to watch World Cup games, survey finds

Responses from 7,000 professionals in the Middle East reveal 41 per cent of employees are likely to watch matches during office hours

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Many employees across the Middle East are likely to call in sick or take annual leave to watch the World Cup, a survey of 7,000 professional has found.

Recruitment firm GulfTalent contacted people across different industries in nine countries in the Middle East. Based on their findings, they warned employers to expect a slowdown in their operations in November and December.

According to the survey findings, 77 per cent of employees in the region plan to watch at least some of the games, including 41 per cent who will do so during office hours.

Of these, roughly one third expected to be given permission to watch the games. However, one in six said they would secretly watch the games by live streaming them on their computers or smartphones.

Sixteen per cent of employees said they would take annual leave to watch the games and 2 per cent said they would simply call in sick to see their favourite teams play.

The survey showed that employees working remotely are twice as likely to call in sick to watch the games, compared to those working in the office full-time.

GulfTalent carried out an online survey of 7,000 professionals across different industries in nine countries in the Middle East. Photo: GulfTalent

The survey also polled employers, whose reactions varied widely.

Some said they would enforce stricter attendance monitoring systems and give warnings to staff but others said they would give staff a level of controlled flexibility to work and watch matches.

Some staff respondents said they were permitted to take time off on days when business was slow and they could submit requests for time off to watch particular games.

Some companies have set up TV screens in the office for collective game watching at certain times or plan to take employees out to watch the games after office hours as a team-building initiative.

Travel to Qatar

Of survey respondents outside Qatar, 16 per cent plan to travel to the country to watch some games.

One fifth of these were regular World Cup visitors, having attended some previous tournaments.

For the overwhelming majority, however, this would be their first World Cup given that the host country is in the region. People travelling to Qatar are expected to take an average of one week of annual leave.

Emiratis are the most likely to visit, with one in three Emirati respondents planning to travel to Qatar. This was followed by citizens of Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, where one in four respondents stated their intention to travel.

The lowest attendance percentage was for Saudis, with just one in five respondents planning to visit Qatar despite the presence of the Saudi national team in the tournament.

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

Updated: November 24, 2022, 4:00 AM