Our old fictional friend Ebenezer Scrooge had a bone to pick with Christmas. He felt its annual arrival picked his pocket of gold he could be making, save for his begrudging gift of the day off to his abused clerk, Bob Cratchit.
Imagine how poor Scrooge would writhe in anguish in today’s world. Not only do most folks get a few days off for Christmas, but the newly minted sports pocket pickers never seem to end. The Super Bowl. March Madness. The World Series. The NBA Finals. Summer Olympics. Winter Olympics. And this week, Scrooge would be shaking his fist at the World Cup, which, for the information of the few who live in TV-less caves, kicked off June 13.
Yes, workplace productivity will take another sports-driven dive as millions across the globe urge their favorites on. The workplaces that do benefit — public houses, mostly — welcome these distractions. But for most employers, it’s yet another dent in the productivity machine that often leaves them desperate for a proper response.
It’s hard to quantify the effect on productivity. In recent years, various consulting and survey firms have taken a stab at it, but hard numbers remain elusive. Super Bowl Monday is a big day for people to call in sick; about 1.5 million Americans do so, reported Herald Mail Media, which also cited stats indicating that 4.4 million more would arrive late for work that day.
Research from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., estimated March Madness extracts about $1.2 billion in lost productivity from employers in just the first week.
In 2012, technology consultant Captivate said the Summer Olympics could put a $1.4 billion bite on worker productivity.
But while data might be scarce, advice abounds. Lots of folks offer, if not solutions to this problem, at least approaches that will help the employer avoid the Scrooge tag. UK consulting firm HCHR had this advice for harried British employers: “Another option might be bringing the World Cup in to the workplace. Organizations may permit employees to listen to matches, or watch them on television.”
Consulting firm Mercer was Johnny-on-the-spot with advice, with a handsome infographic designed to help employers score a few goals during the Cup’s span. Mercer opined that workplaces in nations outside the United States, lands where soccer – or futbol – rules the lives of the populace, have a much graver situation on their hands. Still, U.S. employers should expect a hit.
Counsels Mercer: “For much of the world, work productivity may take a small dip over the next month as millions of soccer fans become glued to TVs, phones, and computers to watch the World Cup. While restaurants and pubs may see an uptick in business, other employers are considering how to allow their employees to watch soccer matches with the least disruption to operations.
Mercer recently surveyed companies in four fútbol-enthused Latin American nations — Argentina (177 companies), Chile (60), Colombia (100) and Mexico (76) — to see how they plan to balance work-life-soccer when their national teams compete among a pool of 32 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, held June 12-July 13, throughout Brazil.”
Here’s what they found:
More than nine of 10 employers in Argentina and Chile said they would offer flexibility to their workers during this fanatical time period. In Mexico, 86 percent of employers said they’d do so. Colombia registered the lowest rate, 78 percent, but that’s still more than three-quarters of employers who’ve decided not to try swim against the tide.
Here’s what that flexibility looks like, country to country. Numbers exceed 100 percent because workplaces can offer a variety of options:
TVs in break rooms:
- Argentina: 88 percent
- Colombia: 83 percent
- Chile: 82 percent
- Mexico: 80 percent
Flex time from work to watch games:
- Colombia: 44 percent
- Mexico: 33 percent
- Argentina: 17 percent
- Chile: 8 percent
Working from home:
- Chile: 13 percent
- Mexico: 8 percent
- Argentina: 6 percent
- Colombia: 4 percent
Mercer endorses such nods to reality by these Latin American business owners, and believes they offer examples for companies worldwide on how to address regular productivity denters such as the World Cup and Super Bowl.
“Global events can make a significant impact on business, and though we can’t predict most of these occurrences, businesses should always plan and prepare for a wide range of possibilities,” said Martín Ibañez-Frocham, Regional Leader for Mercer’s Talent Business in Latin America.
“In many of these [Latin American] locales, we’re seeing businesses turn a potential liability into a benefit and act of goodwill, which can solidify employee brand, motivation, and retention.”