COVID-19 infections and short-run worker performance: Evidence from European football

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Butler, David
Butler, Robert
Farnell, Alex
Simmons, Robert
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Elsevier B.V.
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COVID-19 infections represent a recurrent source of workplace absenteeism impacting labour productivity. Using a unique matched employee-employer dataset, we consider the effects of the virus on the performance of highly valuable employees when returning to work: professional footballers in the top five European leagues. This offers a window to study job scheduling and managerial decision-making. We employ a difference-in-differences (DiD) model that compares the performance of infected players to a matched control group for game tasks that require physical exertion. Results suggest that per-minute performance is unaffected upon returning to play. This is likely due to effective management of minutes on the pitch. We carry out a battery of checks on the primary results to consider causal mechanisms outside of infection that could impact the results such as lockdown breaks, clusters within squads, and scheduling effects. The findings carry an optimistic message and specifically speak to managers supervising physical labour. If appropriately managed, infected workers can return to past performance levels.
OR in sport , Productivity , Performance , Football , COVID-19
Butler, D., Butler, R., Farnell, A. and Simmons, R. (2023) 'COVID-19 infections and short-run worker performance: Evidence from European football', European Journal of Operational Research. 315(2), pp. 750-763.
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