American office workers have likely noticed coworkers celebrating World Cup victories at their desks or lingering a few minutes longer than normal at their office's lobby TV. Here's a newsflash: Productivity experts say this is great for business.
Exact numbers on how much more or less work employees get done during the games are hard to pin down, but there is a universal perception that productivity goes down during game time. An informal poll from the Captive Network that was brought to light by ABC News says that more than 50 percent of working professionals admitted to watching or listening to a 2014 World Cup match during work hours, with 69 percent saying they’ve witnessed other employees doing the same, according to a 714-person panel in North America.
Multiplying those figures by average worker salaries, the Captive Network suggested that $1.68 billion has been lost in productivity over the past two weeks in the U.S. alone.
But that's the wrong way to look at it. Neal Taparia, a co-CEO of Imagine Easy Solutions, a New York-based education company, said in a Forbes post that allowing employees to watch games builds stronger work relationships, and those positive feelings help improve morale and productivity in regard to work-related tasks.
Rather than discouraging such behavior, managers should make it possible for employees to watch at least some of Team USA’s play as a way to build company morale, among other benefits.
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“For the first U.S. game against Ghana, we organized a company-wide social full of soccer trivia and Brazilian-theme food and drink,” he said. “The half-hour break in work gave the whole company a jolt of energy and excitement. Many people from our different product groups ended up staying late to watch the dramatic ending of the game, socialize together and finish up the day’s work.”
The article suggested that offices could improve their staff productivity and morale by holding office pools, broadcasting games on community televisions, and giving employees extra time to watch the games if they complete their important tasks before a certain time.
“It’s an inspiring and motivating thing that’s going on, and we need to take advantage of that,” Monique Honaman, a founding partner of the HR consulting firm ISHR Group, told NBC. “We really, as a country, don’t come together all that often to unify around something. We’re always so divisive. This is kind of unifying.”
Another benefit for employers that allow some flexibility for World Cup viewing is that, since so many employees will watch the games anyway, they can foster a feeling of openness and honesty. With Univision’s free, legal live stream attracting an average of audience of 238,000 (plus the untold scores who tune in via illegal sites), it’s clear that sports fans have never been more comfortable watching the action unfold live online.
Employees who hide their activity can slow their company’s Internet connection to a crawl, said Jack Cullen, president of Modis IT staffing.
“People wanting to do work will have a more difficult time because the network is slower,” he told NBC. He said that more employees will call in sick if they believe watching the game at work will be a headache.
If all else fails, anxious soccer fans can at least try to submit a note to their supervisor from Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the U.S. men’s team.
“I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause,” he wrote in a message to bosses everywhere.
â€” Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) June 25, 2014