Sports In The Workplace: Top Productivity Sappers

Employers around the globe may be preparing for a month of lower-than-normal productivity, as the world’s most popular sport prepares to kick off the 2010 World Cup. The impact on workplaces in United States is expected to be less dramatic, even as soccer continues to grow in popularity here, according to global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Soccer simply has not caught on with the majority of American sports fans. However, the World Cup is a unique event and could attract a lot of viewers who might not typically go out of the way to watch a match. Even as the sport grows in popularity, though, it will have far less of an impact on workplace productivity than the March Madness basketball tournament, for example,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The Challenger firm generated a non-scientific, non-binding ranking of the sporting events that have the most potential to affect workplace productivity.


NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (AKA, March Madness) – Widespread office tournament pools and the fact that about half of the first 32 games are played during work hours (and streamed live on CBS Sports March Madness on Demand) make this the granddaddy of productivity sappers. Proof of the event’s impact on productivity: the “Boss Button,” which instantly hides the webcast behind a fake spreadsheet, was hit 3.3 million times during the 2010 Tournament.

NFL Fantasy Football – Millions of fantasy football participants manage their teams from their office, whether it’s preparing for the fantasy draft or initiating a four-way trade. The time devoted to such transactions each week may seem minor, but over the 17-week course of the season, the hit to productivity can add up.

The Super Bowl – While the game is not played during traditional work hours (unless you work at one of the millions of sports bars broadcasting the game), the impact on the workplace comes the following day, when many Super Bowl revelers find this particular Monday especially difficult to manage. Some Super fans have even started a campaign to make the post-Super Bowl Monday a national work holiday.

World Cup Soccer – While soccer has not taken off in the U.S., this still makes the list for the impact it has on workplace productivity worldwide. Some companies in Europe and South America may even shut down on the day of a big match.

College Football Bowl Season – Bowl games start in mid-December and many die-hard college football fans attempt to watch every game. Some of these games are played during the day, while others go late into the evening. The impact on workplace productivity is less severe, however, due to the fact that the period around the holidays is typically slower than normal.

Baseball Playoffs and World Series – Games are mostly played in the evening, but often stretch into the wee hours due to the natural pace of the game and the tendency for competitive match-ups to extend into extra innings. Groggy fans, particularly in cities with playoff/World Series teams, may be less productive the day after these prolonged games.

NHL Playoffs/Stanley Cup Finals – Professional hockey playoffs last almost two months. For cities with teams playing, this can create considerable distractions as fans critique their team’s performance and plan post-game celebrations.

NBA Playoffs/Finals – Much like with baseball and hockey, productivity is mostly killed in cities with competing teams. The biggest threat comes from late night game-watching on work nights.

The Olympics – Since there are four years between winter Olympics and summer Olympics, these events tend to attract a lot of viewers. While most people get their fill through prime-time coverage, faster Internet connections are making it possible to watch live streaming of events from one’s desk.

Apple Product Announcements – While this technically is not a sporting event, these announcements feature almost as much pre-event hype and watercooler speculation about what will transpire, particularly among members of the IT staff. Most events, which occur in the middle of the workday, are covered via live blogging, so those who cannot wait for news reports after the fact are able to be among the first to learn about Apple’s latest creation or product update.


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