Whether you love football (soccer) or not, you would have friend, family member, colleague, employee or boss currently engaged in the football World Cup being held in Brazil. The World Cup happens once every 4 years, is the largest event in the world, involving 32 countries and viewers exceeding 2 billion merely from its TV audience worldwide.
What’s more interesting is the level of emotional involvement from fans all of over world, skipping word, taking unprecedented levels of sick leave and spending more work hours online and on social media searching match results and planning where to watch the next fixture.
I am certainly one of those people though I did take it to the next level – I actually went to Brazil to watch the games. Yes, I was one of the lucky few to obtain tickets to watch Australia play Holland at Porto Allegra and also managed to acquire ‘last minute’ tickets to attend Russia vs Belgium at the fabulous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
It is indeed a rare occurrence for a CEO to have 2 weeks off work to relax, celebrate and enjoy the festivities in Rio de Janeiro and join the Brazilians in the support of their football-mad national matches. However, it has been a life-long dream to attend the World Cup and for much of the time over there, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for having created a career and a life that could financially allow me to achieve this dream.
Yes, it is possible, even with a career as CEO in healthcare.
Whilst many non-football fans are cynical of the World Cup, its costs to Brazil, a nation that has a wide gap between the rich and the poor as well as the productivity losses during this month of mayhem, I choose to learn a few lessons in wellness on how to turn the occasion into a positive experience in productivity.
1. Opportunity to build relationships
Whether you are football fan or not, now could be a great time for building or cementing relationships whether at work or in your personal life.
In Brazil, I had the opportunity to connect with my younger brother Ashvin, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia whereas I live in Sydney. As such we only meet up a few times a year and this was an opportunity to share and joint aspirational dream with member of my family.
I also managed to connect with my cousin and several other friends from all over the world in Rio and it was a rare opportunity to strengthen those meaningful relationships in my life.
The occasion can also be used to strengthen business relationships, by having more casual, relationship building discussions whilst watching a game. Often rivalries during a game can even build greater friendships afterward, so why not use these games as an opportunity to engage with someone you want to do business with.
The World Cup event can even be extended into the office setting, perhaps by having more dress down days, or allowing for breaks during game hours (especially if you know most of your employees are going to be watching it anyway). This way you could build trust with your team and they’ll be grateful for it afterward.
2. Adapt your schedules accordingly
Depending on which country you live in, match times can be during critical meetings or they can occur while you should be getting your REM sleep. If you are a fanatic and need to stay up to watch the games, then do expect that your productivity may drop during the day.
You should then think about ‘giving up’ other pleasures this month e.g. personal reading time or TV time, in order to make up for the loss in work productivity.
If on the other hand, you are not a fan but you know many of your employees are, then do be aware of when key games are on, (especially if they involve your own country), and try to work around them.
3. Screaming is therapeutic
I don’t recall shouting at the top of my lungs as much as I did at the Australia vs Holland game at Porta Allegre. Although we did end up losing the game, the Socceroos (Australia’s national squad whom I support), played like champions and even took the lead against the mighty Dutch who were fielding a very strong squad, possibly a trophy winning side.
It was extremely liberating to just ‘let go’ of my emotions and discharge my vocal cords for those 2 hours, especially when you are used to working in the corporate healthcare arena. The fact is, screaming is a therapeutic exercise (others may call this cheering), but I highly recommend you let your voice rip every now and again for stress relief, and a football game is definitely a good excuse.
4. Pace Yourself
With all the match-watching parties, interrupted sleep and disordered eating patterns, one can find yourself several kilos heavier and more out of shape watching football instead of playing it.
In my case, being on holidays in Brazil also meant having to try all the meaty, high carb Brazilian food such as the traditional Fejjuada (beans, rice, chips and 5 kinds of meat) as well as consuming traditional Brazilian beer for lunch, which is apparently commonplace.
They key is to not to completely all your mind-body wellness routines in the process. Even if you find it difficult to exercise every day, do try to fit it into the calendar at a different time of the day to when the games are on. Also, you could use the half-time breaks to meditate.
With food, its always handy to prepare in advance and do a big shop at the grocery and obtain a lot of healthy snacks (fruits, unsalted nuts, rice crackers etc.) so you are munching on tonnes of junk food during those tense goal scoring moments.
5. Time for breaks and Holidays
If you can’t beat them, join them! If you know productivity is going to be low on certain days, then why not just allow for some time off or take it off yourself. Once again, your colleagues and employees may appreciate this and you could enjoy a holiday when you know that even your clients and suppliers are probably in the same boat.
If you are working in an environment such as a hospital where it is unrealistic to take prolonged periods of time off, then see if you can shorten shift work during these periods, which may involve negotiating with some of your colleagues.
6. Fine-tune Corporate Wellbeing strategies
As the World Cup occurs from June to July, it is a good time to conduct a mid-year review of your corporate wellness strategy. Assess your wellness and productivity metrics of your organisation or if you have a wellness program for patients, then it is a good time to assess if this program is meeting its goals.
If they haven’t they get to the underlying cause of why this is the case. You could use the World Cup games as an event to engage people in the wellness conversation, find out what’s working in the organisation and what’s not.
Companies spent millions of $$$ to improve employee engagement as the World Cup could be an ideal opportunity to raise that conversation in a positive way using a topic that many of your employees already love.
7. Rediscover your inner child and passions
I well and truly maintain that the true secret of success is this “Know Thyself”. When you really know yourself, what you want in life, what your strengths are, what your core values are, what areas your blind spots are, and find ways to compensate for that, is when you really grow.
Some of this knowledge may sit in your conscious mind, yet 95% of who we are sits in our subconscious mind. For some reason in our past, certain people are able to better access memories from our childhood and understand reasons for how they behave now. I find that those people who are able to ‘discover their inner child’ e.g. laugh at themselves, especially when dealing with their own children, are better able to cope with stress and maintain long term business success without burning out.
This World Cup, especially visiting Brazil and rediscovering my love for football, a sport I have largely ignored for the last decade since moving to Australia from England, has allowed me to rediscover a passion from my childhood that I had left behind. As a result, I feel like I have another outlet to turn to in times of stress as a CEO, and for that I am very grateful.
Whether it is the skill of the game, the social occasion, the drama of players antics e.g. Luis Suarez biting his Italian opponent, with football there can be something for everyone to enjoy. And joy is part of wellbeing and wellbeing is fundamental to long term success in life and business.
What is your biggest lesson from the World Cup so far?