The World Cup at Work = Lost Productivity or Employee Camaraderie?

World Cup = Lost Productivity?

Productivity – from Flickr Creative Commons

The World Cup is on this week and for those of us who work “typical” hours, most of these matches fall during the work day. So what is your company policy for employees watching sports (World Cup) at work? I mean…we DO work in sports, so shouldn’t this be somehow considered “part of the job”? (sidenote: would someone explain to me when I’m supposed to put the end of sentence punctuation inside the quotes and when to put it outside the quotes? I got all A’s in English class but can’t remember that rule for the life of me. Instead of looking it up myself, please leave a note in the comments. Thank you)

Well, not so fast! Most of us that work in the business of sports have jobs that are typically oriented around a normal work day. Emails, meetings, tasks, phone calls, to-do lists and so on and so forth, but does that mean we can’t take out some time to bond with our co-workers during the biggest international sporting event that doesn’t take place but every four years? But, Bill, you might say, what about the Olympics? Well, yes, the policy applies to the Olympics as well. Well, here are my thoughts, the pros and the cons of watching the World Cup at work.

– Team camaraderie that develops out of the fact that employees are doing something fun and engaging in a sport product
– “Market research”
– Break from the monotony of a hot, sweaty office with no A/C and a chance to cool-off with some refreshments (depends on where you work I suppose)
– Reward and rest from the hard work and grind that was a long season or year
– Opportunity to get to know other co-workers you might not get a chance to interact with that often
– Creates space to learn about people of different cultural backgrounds and identities

– Lost productivity due to employees not paying attention to work during work hours – this is a big one
– Many employees are out on vacation during the summer, so there is already an assumed loss of productivity during the summer, watching the World Cup at work only adds to the distraction and loss of productivity
– Distracted work is work with mistakes which causes more problems in the long run

This is not an exhaustive list, but just the idea of the consequences of watching the World Cup at work was something I thought was interesting to think of from an outside perspective. Surely there are many organizations out there that don’t approve of any kind of distraction at work, especially live TV, but what about those of us that work IN sports? Do we have it in our DNA that we’re somehow required to engage in these types of events just by the nature of work? What about our cultural or national heritage? Do our values and beliefs as a society require us to be involved in something that has global impact, even if it is “just” a sporting event? Certainly sports influence politics in some ways and definitely the other way around, but how are we supposed to manage this situation at work?

Do we shut down the office for the Olympics? Probably not as much because of the NBC television programming that packages most of the events in which the US is participating during evening hours when most of America is available to watch, but sure, maybe. So other than that, why is soccer different? Perhaps because it is a one sport tournament that lasts almost as long as the Olympics and thus somehow different?

Either way, we can’t deny the sociological impact of sport on society. The ceremonies, behaviors and actions wrapped up in sport define or explain culture and act as a stage on which we exercise our values and what is important to us. During these large international sporting tournaments, we’re given the opportunity to cross cultural divides, learn from other people, grow as a human race and break down the barriers that keep us separated. Sport has the power to heal and unite, but only if we let it do so.

When it comes down to it, yes we’re responsible to our obligations at work and there definitely IS a tangible loss of productivity. But what we must ask ourselves is whether or not that loss of productivity in the short term is worth the price of what we gain in the long term. Certainly every organization has some units that must be always on deck, on call and always responsive; but for the rest of us, however, let’s enjoy the World Cup together, cheer on our national team and make up those hours elsewhere in the week.

Go Forth!



  1. thank you Lora!

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