Olympic Games Compete For Workers’ Attention

Workday Olympic Coverage Could Sap Productivity

With the Olympic Games officially underway over the weekend, NBC Television is barely into its 5,535 hours of coverage, including 3,500 hours of live streaming of events online.  The network hopes to match the success of the 2008 Olympic coverage that attracted an average of 27 million American viewers each day over the 17-day event.  While most viewers will catch the most popular sports during the network’s prime-time coverage, the five- to eight-hour time difference between London and America’s four time zones (11 hours for those lucky enough to live in Hawaii), means that many fans who want to watch live events will do so from their work desks.  According to workplace expert John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, it is difficult to pin down a monetary value of the lost productivity that could result from employees watching the Olympics.  “In reality, it will have no measureable impact on the overall economy.  Where it will be most noticeable is the IT department, which is likely to observe a significant slowdown in company Internet speeds, as bandwidth is eaten up by Olympic fans watching streaming videos from their desks,” he noted.  “At the end of the day, productivity will be no worse for wear, as employees who slacked off during the workday, stay later to complete their projects or take work home using their growing arsenal of portable technology that has helped virtually erase the line between our work lives and personal lives.”  What can employers do to ensure that the Olympic Games do not sap office productivity?  What other events are notorious for stealing employees’ attention during the workday?

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