The 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil this week. Some employers will embrace the competition as a way of motivating and engaging with their staff. However, others will be concerned about the potential disruption that the competition may cause for their business.

Issues such as absenteeism, poor time keeping and misconduct - including unauthorised internet use, ‘office banter’ and employees attending work under the influence of alcohol - are likely to arise. With only a few days to go until kick off, now is the time for employers to take steps to minimise potential disruption to their business.

It is not just England (or men)

Patriotism is likely to be running high throughout the World Cup and ‘banter’ between supporters of different teams can boost workplace morale. However, there is a danger that seemingly harmless banter can get out of hand. Employees should be reminded of the standards of conduct expected of them and that any bullying or harassment, particularly on the grounds of race, will not be tolerated.

Employers also need to ensure that particular groups aren’t disadvantaged – women like football too! Requests for annual leave should be dealt with fairly and male colleagues should not be prioritised. If England supporters are allowed to finish work early to watch England games, the same opportunity should be given to staff supporting other national teams.

Going missing from the field of play

Staff may arrive late to work because they have been watching the football or perhaps not turn up to work at all after a night of celebrating their team’s success.

Whilst many companies will offer staff flexible working during the tournament, employees should be made aware that any unauthorised absences will be dealt with in accordance with the company’s disciplinary procedure. Forewarning staff of the possible consequences of failing to adhere to company guidelines will make it easier to take disciplinary action against any staff member who is late or does not turn up to work without good reason.

The day after the night before

During the tournament alcohol consumption is likely to be higher: employees may be celebrating their team’s success (or commiserating!). In most organisations, reporting to work under the influence is a serious disciplinary issue. Employers should remind all staff at the outset of the World Cup of the company’s policy on drinking alcohol and the consequences of breaching that policy.

Like it!

Social media, fans forums, radio and television live streaming – this year there are more channels open to workers to follow the build up to matches or to engage with other fans during working hours. Social media is an excellent way to encourage communication between employees. However, if employees spend too much time ‘surfing the net’, then this can have a significant impact on productivity.

If you do not already have a social media usage policy, now is the time to implement one. If a policy already exists, it is a good idea to bring it to the attention of employees.

An opportunity to boost morale

Whilst the World Cup brings a number of potential headaches for employers, with careful planning and consideration the World Cup can be a hugely positive event for business. Boosting employee morale, perhaps by way of an office sweepstake, can reduce the risk of staff ‘sickies’ and provided that careful planning and consideration takes place the potential pitfalls identified above should be avoided.