World Cup hits productivity in Middle East

November 24, 2022

Employers in the Middle East are expected to experience a significant slowdown in their operations due to staff shortages and a slump in productivity following the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to the results of a survey conducted by job board GulfTalent.

Almost half (41%) of employees plan to watch games during work hours. Of these, about a third expect to be able to watch the games, while one in six said they would covertly watch the games via live stream.

Other strategies employees reported they would use to watch the games during work hours include requesting an entire annual vacation, leaving work early to watch the games, or simply calling in sick.

Based on the survey results, employees working remotely or in hybrid mode reported twice as much calling in sick to watch the games than those working full-time in the office.

The reactions of the employers are very different and range from a stricter presence check to punitive measures such as warnings to controlled flexibility of the employees. Some respondents indicated that they are allowed to take days off when the store is less busy, or to request time off to watch certain games. Some companies have set up TV screens in the office to watch games together at specific times, or take employees to watch games after office hours as a team building initiative.

Among survey respondents, 16% said they plan to travel to Qatar to see some matches in person due to the close proximity of the matches to their country of residence. Given the prevailing population size, Saudis are expected to represent the largest segment of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals attending the Games.

Based on GulfTalent survey results, those traveling to Qatar plan to take an average of one week annual leave. Given the high volume of travel, this will likely result in a significant overall disruption rate and impact critical operations. Businesses in the UAE are expected to be hit particularly hard as staff shortages arise due to the combined effect of football-related holidays, national public holidays in early December and Christmas-related travel in the second half of the month.

This study is based on an online survey of 7,000 professionals in nine Middle Eastern countries employed in various industries.


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