With American viewership of the World Cup at an all-time high, Thursday’s 12 p.m. EST match between the USA and Germany is expected to draw record audiences from New York to Seattle.
The World Cup craze even led a fan to draft an official petition calling on the Obama administration to make Thursday a national holiday.
“Americans all over this great country won't get to see that game, won't get to enjoy the fraternity of their fellow citizens because it is scheduled for the middle of the day,” the petition reads.
“We'll be sneaking out for long lunches, refreshing browsers, calling in sick. You can save everybody the trouble. Make Thursday a holiday.”
Fewer than 4,000 people have signed the petition, but companies should pay attention to its sentiment.
The surge in World Cup interest has been great for American advertisers, sponsors and soccer enthusiasts, but workplace managers should be aware of the showdown’s potential impact on attendance and productivity, experts say.
“When you have these national types of events like the World Cup, Super Bowl or Thanksgiving for that matter, management needs to plan for that," said Joyce Maroney, director of Kronos Incorporated’s Workforce Institute, a Boston-area think tank that publishes studies and articles relevant to managers. "If you’re going to have higher than normal absenteeism on a specific day, you need to plan ahead.”
“There are opportunities to celebrate the World Cup without significantly hindering the productivity of the day.”
The impact of sporting events on workplaces plagues companies around the world, but the United States is actually fairly immune to the effects, according to a Workforce Institute study. About 48 percent of workers in India and 58 percent of Chinese workers admit to calling out of work because they were watching, participating in or recovering from the excesses of a sporting event that day or the night before. Only 11 percent of Americans workers admitted the same, according to the study.
A recent study by RetailMeNot, an international digital coupon marketplace, showed that 13 percent of American workers admit they watched the World Cup at work, while 10 percent said they would leave work to watch it.
“Employers beware: you’ve got some lost productivity headed your way!” RetailMeNot spokeswoman Christy Rabil said via email.
But there are ways to diminish losses and even derive benefits from World Cup fever.
“Companies can provide paid time off [so that] employees can say, ‘hey, I want to take Thursday off’ ahead of time, and that way management can plan ahead and reschedule that shift and minimize overtime,” Maroney said.
“Bring a monitor into the cafeteria to broadcast the game and have your food service company do something different with the food for the World Cup.”
By supporting employees' interest in the match, companies can build goodwill and improve morale, Maroney said -- which can actually enhance productivity.
“Doing things like this will bolster engagement in the workplace,” Maroney said. “It’s not going to make up for a terrible manager or crappy hours, but it does have a positive impact.”
Just in case your boss doesn't see it that way, @ussoccer provided a written excuse for you to skip work on Thursday.
â€” Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) June 25, 2014