Bloomberg News

Trading Floor TVs, Atrium Games Help Prevent Soccer Sick Notes

June 17, 2010

Kellogg Co. (K:US) doesn’t have to worry about staff at its U.K. headquarters staying away from work or sneaking out of the office when England plays its potentially decisive World Cup game against Slovenia next week.

When the match kicks off at 3 p.m. local time on June 23, the 660 employees at Kellogg’s base in Manchester, northwest England, will be allowed into the building atrium to watch the team’s attempt to qualify for the tournament’s latter stages.

“It’s fantastic that we are being able to watch it from work,” said Louise Davies, assistant communications manager for the cereal maker. “It’s hard to imagine that with a big crowd, employees won’t want to join in to watch the match.”

With many World Cup games taking place during working hours, European companies must decide whether to make provisions for staff wanting to follow their team. Those that don’t risk absenteeism or clogged Internet networks as workers log on to live streams of the games. The cost to U.K. businesses in terms of lost working hours may reach 1 billion pounds ($1.48 billion), according to the Chartered Management Institute.

Fiat SpA (F), Italy’s biggest carmaker, can get as many as 500 medical notes from employees on the day of an important soccer match, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN)’s office in London has a small auditorium available to allow its employees to watch certain games of the World Cup and has screens in the background across dealing rooms. It’s raising money for the Alzheimers Society by selling flags to employees supporting their individual teams.

Accommodating Requests

“There is huge goodwill, both in terms of employee engagement and in productivity, to be gained from accommodating flexible working requests or allowing staff to take a couple of hours out to watch the games,” said Michael Rendell, leader of human resource services at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Nomura Holdings Inc. (8604), Japan’s biggest brokerage, has made arrangements for employees throughout Europe to watch the World Cup matches either via the Internet at their desks or on large screens in separate rooms.

“Our employees work hard and manage their time effectively so the management are happy to make provisions for people to watch the games over the coming weeks,” the firm said.

According to a survey conducted in April by YouGov and Telegent Systems, 38 percent of employees in England would be prepared to skip work to watch the soccer. Of 2,463 people interviewed online, 48 percent said allowing staff to watch games at work would have the most positive impact on morale.

Flexible Shifts

J Sainsbury Plc, (SBRY) the U.K.’s third-largest supermarket chain, is allowing workers to book time off, swap shifts, start or finish earlier and time their breaks to coincide with kick-offs. QAS Ltd., a unit of credit-checking company Experian Plc, (EXPN) sent an e-mail to staff before the start of the World Cup asking them to nominate a team which they would be allowed to watch at local pubs.

“We obviously have to make sure we haven’t got an important meeting when out of the office, and need to make up the time later, so it works well for us and the company,” said Nick Moodie, who works at QAS and watched New Zealand play Slovakia this week at the Frog pub in Clapham, south London.

A study of 1,000 British workers commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP showed that 53 percent of male employees and 21 percent of females aimed to watch World Cup matches during office hours. About 5 percent planned to watch without their employers’ permission or call in sick.

Clogging Networks

Businesses that fail to make adequate provisions for their staff to watch games may find that the performance of their Internet network slows as employees log on to live streams, said Scott Morrison, an Antibes-based vice president at Gartner Inc.

“Organizations have to maintain the threat that if network performance is affected too much they will block streaming traffic and that’s certainly the approach many organizations we are speaking to are taking,” Morrison said.

In Germany, employees of sports goods makers Adidas AG (ADS) and Puma AG will get to see the matches. At Adidas’s Herzogenaurach headquarters, televisions have been installed in the stadium-like exhibition center and the “Stripes” canteen, spokeswoman Katja Schreiber said. Puma has set up projector screens in its canteens, according to spokeswoman Kerstin Neuber.

Infineon Technologies AG (IFX), Europe’s second-largest chipmaker, is arranging public viewing of today’s lunchtime game between Germany and Serbia in the staff canteen, spokesman Christian Hoenicke said. SAP AG (SAP), the world’s biggest maker of business-management software, is showing all matches on a big screen at its Walldorf, Germany, headquarters and two nearby locations, according to spokeswoman Angelika Pfahler.

Business as Usual

Not all are so sympathetic. Daimler AG, (DAI) the world’s second-biggest luxury carmaker, doesn’t allow staff to watch World Cup matches at work, spokeswoman Dominique Albrecht said, citing job-safety directives. Beiersdorf AG, the German maker of the Nivea skin cream, isn’t providing public viewing facilities in its Hamburg headquarters, spokesman Ralph Esper said.

At ING Groep NV (INGA), the Netherlands’ biggest financial-services firm and a sponsor of the Dutch team, employees at some locations have to pay an entrance fee to see games that goes to ING’s and Unicef’s charity program “Chances for Children.”

“Every business around the world has to make its own arrangements,” said ING spokesman Frans Middendorff. “Several ING offices in the Netherlands facilitate watching games by the Dutch team, work permitting and after management approval.”

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc will convert an atrium at its London office into a soccer field with giant screens to entertain bankers and clients during the World Cup. RBS will invite as many as 3,000 investment banking clients to watch the matches, according to an e-mail to employees earlier this month.

“With a canopy covering the space, an indoor pitch and giant screens it promises to be a great venue to watch the games,” the bank said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Paul Jarvis at pjarvis@bloomberg.net; Armorel Kenna in Milan at akenna@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net.


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