No blog about football can begin without throwing in some soccer stats. So for those counting down to the World Cup in Brazil, here are some numbers to get you dreaming of the beautiful game:

  • 11 – number of seconds it took for Turkey’s Hakan Sukur to score the World Cup’s quickest goal against South Korea in 2002
  • 12 – date in June for the opening game in Brazil 2014
  • 32 – number of teams taking part in Brazil 2014
  • 78,000 – capacity in the remodelled Maracana stadium in Brazil (the venue for the final)
  • 3,178,856 – the total number who attended matches in South Africa 2010
  • 35,000,000 – prize money in dollars for the winning team in 2014

And of course, not forgetting:

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Yes, 250 million. That’s the estimate of how many working hours will be lost by businesses in the UK as a result of staff taking time off, or simply being distracted by World Cup matches this June. Another survey suggests that 63% of small businesses feel that the World Cup will hit their profits because of increased absenteeism.

The good news for employers this year (at least those that don’t operate shift work) is that all games kick off at 5pm UK time or later – unlike South Africa where frequent 3pm kick offs played havoc with the working day. But there is still likely to be increased absence as people leave early to get home or claim a good spot in their favourite football pub.

As a small business, do you just accept that there will be disruption and simply demand that people make the time up, or do you use the World Cup as an opportunity to generate some team spirit and employee goodwill?

Here are the main options for your small business:

  • Allow staff time off to go and watch the match
    If you can be a bit more flexible, why not offer employees the option to leave early and ask them to make the time up at a later date? 68% of CEOs surveyed were planning to take this approach. Businesses have little to lose and should see an uptick in longer term goodwill from their employees.
  • Provide a communal area for staff to watch the World Cup
    It’s a great team building opportunity so why not take the chance to hire in a big TV screen and make an occasion of it? People won’t need to leave work early and it can become a great social occasion in the office. 73% of businesses surveyed were planning to take this option. Do be aware, though, that your business will need a TV licence for any programmes watched live – even if through a PC or tablet.
  • Stop employees from leaving early
    It seems harsh but 32% of employers will not be allowing an early finish for their staff on World Cup match days. And 8% will not be allowing staff to watch matches either at their desk or in a communal area. Ultimately would this be an own goal for your business? A small business depends on the goodwill of its workforce and your employees might feel less inclined to go the extra mile if they feel the effort is not rewarded.

Ultimately it’s better to go with the flow and use events like the Word Cup to your advantage rather than fight against them. In the longer term your business will be the winner. Whether the same can be said for the English national team is another matter entirely.