By Vicky Townsend, CEO – Inspiration University
Seems to me, I’ve been seeing something crazy happening! Everyone I know seems to be watching soccer, and it only took 40 years. Even I ended up at a sports bar and watched a game with the United States and Peru, and cringed when we lost to Belgium. Wait, what? Americans aren’t known for their commitment to soccer, (at least we used to pretend to care till we lose) yet it seems, these days that’s all anyone is talking about. Even though the USA is out of the game, the momentum is still going. And, with Germany’s epic win over Brazil, people are glued to their television and computer screens more than ever. Most of the games occur during work hours so employees are quietly sneaking into the conference rooms, hurriedly minimizing the FIFA screen when the boss walks by their cubicle, and spending longer stints in the bathroom stalls just so they can sit and watch the game. (believe me, I saw this on Facebook!)
But what’s this doing to our productivity? How much is this crazy game actually costing us? According to Captivate Network, we’ve already lost $1,680,000,000 in productivity! Yet, there are two sides to the madness. Some people, albeit soccer fans, believe it’s very healthy in the work environment to have such comradery and patriotic inspiration. They see it as a way for employees and coworkers to get to know each other and bond in ways the typical work day does not allow. Others, however, are seeing the “soccer breaks” as a waste of time and causing the company lost revenue. Some companies already place blocks on certain websites such as Facebook and other social media outlets, so perhaps for the World Cup, aggravated bosses can have the IT department block or restrict any sites that are live streaming the World Cup games (Why is ESPN not a blocked site at work is beyond me, unless you work at a sports bar). Of course, that doesn’t eliminate employees quietly sneaking around to watch on their smartphones, but, that might not be an issue if your company has a limited cell phone policy. Unfortunately, if employers place too many strict rules and make a huge issue of it, workers will simply call in sick. (it’s called World Cup Fever!, and over 3.5 million Brits did it so far this year alone!) Those unscheduled absences can bring about delays in productivity much greater than if employees left their desks occasionally to check on the game. .
But, there are a few ways to make this a win/win/GOAL! Perhaps the better solution is extra-long lunch breaks or delayed starts to accommodate the craze. I mean really, can we truly fight this? We’ve reach the tipping point, the point where it’s becoming madness in the US just like most other countries in the world. When trying to discover ways to keep this under control, or at least make lemonade out of lemons, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first being the length of the game. Each game is made up of two equal periods of 45 minutes. So, giving employees extra-long lunch breaks or having them come in earlier or stay later to make up for the lost work time, might be worth it. (an extra half hour lunch hour, isn’t too bad) At least they won’t call in sick and it will probably raise company morale to have a boss willing to make adjustments. Which brings up the next point, the World Cup only happens every 4 years. In fact, the head coach of the United States team, Jurgen Klinsmann actually tweeted a permission slip to all employees saying that, “I understand this absence may reduce productivity of your workplace, but I can assure that it is for an important cause.”
So in case the office baseball fans, football fans, or bocce fans start complaining that they want permissible time off and extended lunch breaks to watch their games too, remind them this is a special occasion and if they don’t want to watch, they can work their regular office hours. You can’t please everyone, so be fair, and maybe get into the spirit yourself. As a matter of fact, you might catch World Cup Fever too, simply by being exposed! So, get your office pool going, have everyone wear their country’s colors, bet on someone biting someone on the field (a real bet!) and enjoy the bonding happening at the office. (Just figure out how you aren’t going to participate in that 1.6 Billion dollar productivity loss!) On the bright side, these particular problems will only occur every 4 years, which gives you something to scream GOOOOOOAAAAALLL about too!