Gulf employers to face higher staff absences due to World Cup

Posted on November 23, 2022

  • 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 GulfTalent.

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

Based on GulfTalent’s survey findings, 77 percent of employees in the region plan to watch at least some of the games, including 41% 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 GulfTalent’s 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 TV 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 Qatar

Of survey respondents outside Qatar, 16% 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. This was followed by nationals of Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, where one in four respondents stated their intention to travel. 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 GulfTalent’s 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

GulfTalent’s research was based on an online survey of 7,000 professionals based across nine countries in the Middle East and employed in different industries. GulfTalent is a leading online recruitment portal in the Middle East, used by over 10 million experienced professionals from all sectors and job categories. It serves as the primary source of both local and expatriate talent to over 10,000 of the largest employers and recruitment agencies across the region.

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Comments (10)

Sanousi Sanousi
1 year ago

World Cup is a thing and to be held in Middle East is something else. Therefore, employers in this region should be prudent in understanding and manage this one of a kind event and the result will be an increase of esprit de corps among their organization.

Muhammad waqas baig Muhammad Waqas Baig
1 year ago

I absolutely agree with the survey.

Tahir safdar Tahir safdar
1 year ago

The Qatar has done nice arrangements for FIFA world cup with the cooperation of Accor, who is the main company managing the residences for FIFA Fans. As I really appreciate the support, they are giving to the employees during the event and even after they will recruit most of the staff and will not just lay them off.

Odionyi ranel Odionyi Ranel
1 year ago

Football has been well planned, as most games are played late hours. Also the employee has to know his/her priority in life. If you value football or your job? The issue is not balancing, it’s about prioritizing.

Hadjam mohamed islam Hadjam Mohamed Islam
1 year ago

Qatar has organized well and managed the whole big event to not disturb work structure, employee's jobs, and working hours.

Mohammad ali Mohammad Ali
1 year ago

We have similar conditions at our workplace . We have made it possible for company employees to watch games during lunch hours. Because not concentrating while working is much worse than not working at all . Thank you for your good content GULFTALENT! Wishing success to the Iranian football team!

Shazia Shazia
1 year ago

I personally feel like these type of events must be enjoyed by employers & employees to be productive and right now this is happening so, no such problem of no availability is there.

Pradeep Pradeep
1 year ago

I usually do not take off, instead I will watch the match online if they start before 1500 hrs or I will be back home at 1600 hrs to watch the same. It is obvious that hosting nation will be impacted in the first place and enthusiasts will watch somehow by taking a leave if their favorite team is playing on a given day. It's sensible not to penalize people or restrict them in watching the match and World Cup happens once in 4 yrs. Underlining is brunt has to be borne by the employers worldwide, since it’s the most celebrated game of sports on earth as far as other sports are concerned.

Zaheer Zaheer
1 year ago

Qatar has organized well and managed the whole big event to not disturb work structure, employee's jobs, working hours, and also to let the people enjoy the games in fan festival zones by providing big screens to watch live football games. I must appreciate the management of Qatar to handle all around the situation in this big FIFA 2022 event very disciplinary.

Khaled al-asbahi Khaled Al-Asbahi
1 year ago

I absolutely agree with the survey.