Soccer 'flu' hits workers

2010-06-25 15:19

Johannesburg - After a night of football and heavy drinking, 25-year-old Sinehlamhla called her boss and dreamed up the first excuse that came to mind to skip work.

"I told my boss my place was flooded," the sales consultant said. "I had a hangover from the night before. We watched soccer and drank a lot."

An elderly aunt fallen ill, car problems, sudden flu - there's no shortage of excuses at the World Cup, where South Africans are still partying hard even though their team has been eliminated.

And that's a real headache for companies worried about a dramatic drop in productivity.

"I partied all night and the next day at work, I was tired.

"There was no productivity," said Thabo Maswanganye, a 27-year-old claims assessor. Now he just calls in sick.

"It's not bad for the country. We can always cover up. Whatever we do not do, we can do it the next day," he said.

About one third of South African workers will miss at least one day of work to watch a game, which represents about a R750m loss to the economy according to estimates by Alexander Forbes consultancy.

Aside from absenteeism, Africa's biggest economy also risks seeing a big slowdown in activity during the four-week tournament.

"We've lost contracts and activity is dead because we don't have the right to work within a 10-kilometre radius of the stadium and the airport," said the head of a construction company in Cape Town.

Boost to economy

The only way to prevent an exodus of staff in a country fiercely proud of hosting Africa's first World Cup is to allow employees to watch certain matches, experts say.

Many companies played the patriotic card by closing early for the June 11 opening and for the South Africa v France match, which saw both teams crash out of the competition.

Getting out of work for less flashy matches is a trickier task, meaning people either skip work or content themselves with re-broadcasts later in the day.

English teacher Mike McDonald solved the problem by simply taking two weeks holiday so he could hop across the country to watch games.

"It's easier like that," he said.

Some big companies like banks have installed big screens in their offices.

De Beers, the world's top diamond producer, has offered flexible schedules for its 2 500 workers in mines and offices.

Experts say such gestures do limit productivity losses during big events.

"In Holland, about 15% of the companies who provided facilities (to watch games) for their workers maintained productivity or even increased it," said Iggy Sathekge, executive manager of Productivity SA.

"If people feel their company cares for them, they are more willing to work, to do extra hours the next day," he said.

Overall, the World Cup is expected to boost South Africa's economy by a half-point this year, with about 300 000 foreign fans expected to visit, helping seal a recovery after last year's recession.

  - Sapa

  • cammie - 2010-06-25 15:43

    The sad reality is that those people who really are/have been sick are not "suspects" along with those who are/have been skiving off! I genuinely had an incredibly bad dose of the flu where I was placed on a second dose of antibiotics and cortisone when the first batch of antibiotics did not work. Whilst the vibe around the country has been incredible and it was good to see Bafana Bafana exit in style, I don't even understand or follow the game. The favourite excuse at any time of the year in our office, whether special sports/events are on or not, and folk just feel like a 'duvet day' is... "I'm not coming in, I've been up all night with an upset tummy!" Each of us must live with our own conscience - how comfortable are you!

  • DeonGP - 2010-06-25 16:04

    We also saw an increase in lazyness at our practice. Some people are realy offended when we see clearly they are not sick. Usually they are easy to catch out, they "somme" tell the secretary: I want 3 days off!

  • Boss - 2010-06-25 16:09

    Can't find my car keys Power cut and security gate can't open Horrible jippo guts, must have eaten something horrid My Gran died Have to pick up my Folks from the airport (I know they dead) My appendix burst this morning, at mediclinic now Doctor has booked me off, had a dizzy spell Dogs had a fight last night - at the vets, too terrible!

  • cammie - 2010-06-25 16:15

    correction - should read.... those people who really are/have been sick ARE "suspects" along with those who are/have been skiving off!

  • js - 2010-06-25 16:19

    Why would Mike McDonald, English Teacher, have to put in two weeks' leave. Are SA schools not closed during the SWC?

  • bc - 2010-06-25 16:27

    I think people forget that our economy is far from "happening" and is being damaged by the poor levels of productivity. I understand that this is a once in a lifetime event but our jobs are for a lifetime. Priorities are non existant?!

  • Kapenaar - 2010-06-25 19:33

    I had the same problems in my company. But with turnover nearly 50% up over the last 3 months, I realize there is lots of dead wood in the company. We actually produce MORE with less staff. Retrenchments here we come!!!

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