UAE: Employees likely to call in sick, take annual leave to watch Fifa World Cup, says survey

Many residents say they also watch matches secretly on their computers or smartphones during their work shift

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KT photo used for illustrative purposes
KT photo used for illustrative purposes

Waheed Abbas

Published: Thu 24 Nov 2022, 11:38 AM

Last updated: Thu 24 Nov 2022, 4:19 PM

Many employees in the UAE and Middle East are likely to take one day from their annual leaves — or even call in sick — just to watch Fifa World Cup matches, a new survey revealed.

In the poll of GulfTalent, some employees reported that they would watch the games during working hours, while others would request a full-day leave; leave work early; or simply call in sick.

Survey findings show that employees working remotely or in hybrid mode are twice as likely to call in sick, compared to those working in the office full-time.

The Fifa World Cup being held in Qatar has gripped the fancy of fans across the region, especially Dubai, with many football fans settled in the emirate to watch the games. These fans travel to Doha and return to the city every day, which has been made possible through a large number of flights operated by flydubai, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Air Arabia.

It said that around 77 per cent of employees in the region plan to watch at least some of the Fifa World Cup games, including 41 per cent 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 watch the games by live-streaming from their computers or smartphones.

The survey was based on online responses from 7,000 professionals across nine countries in the Middle East.

Employer reaction

Many employer reactions vary widely, ranging from stricter attendance monitoring and punitive measures — such as warnings — to giving employees a level of controlled flexibility.

Some respondents mentioned they were permitted to take some time off on days when business was less busy or to submit requests for time off to watch particular games.

Some companies have set up TV screens in the office for collective game watching at certain times. Others take employees out to watch the games after office hours as a team-building initiative.

Travel to Qatar

Of survey respondents outside Qatar, 16 per cent plan to travel to Doha to watch some games in person.

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.

Among the Gulf’s major expatriate groups, Indian and Pakistani professionals are the main segments expected to attend the games in significant numbers.


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