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

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>European Journal of Operational Research
Issue number2
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)750-763
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date13/02/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


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.