While citizens of the host country are upset and athletes from around the globe are either forgoing the event or being barred from participating, Americans are as psyched as ever for the Summer Olympics kicking off tonight in Rio de Janeiro.
More than a few employers, however, are likely bracing for two weeks of reduced productivity and reduced bandwidth, as employees secretly or openly stream the games online at work.
A survey by the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. found that 73 percent of U.S. adults say they plan to watch at least some of the events. And half of those say they would consider watching at work.
So what are bosses to do? A number of management experts say they would be wise to either do nothing, or better yet, embrace the event as a bonding opportunity for employees.
"Instead of competing for their employees' attention, and potentially harming engagement in the process, employers can take this opportunity to build camaraderie and boost engagement through employee appreciation," Joyce Maroney, director of the Workforce Institute, tells the Society for Human Resource Management.
There’s another big reason companies might want to encourage communal Olympics-watching: cyberattacks.
The higher-than-average internet usage that results from several workers watching the games on their computers will slow down corporate networks, creating an ideal opportunity for hackers to break into the system.
In addition, people itching to watch the Olympics will be more likely to be lured into virus-infested websites that promote video streaming or clips. Hackers will be sure to take advantage of their desperation.
That’s why a June survey of 600 IT professionals by TEKSystems, a tech staffing company, found that 79 percent say they believe their networks would be at greater risk because of the Olympics.
Employers could of course inform workers of these problems, and tell them to either not stream the games online or to not do it during certain hours of peak usage. But a simpler solution might be to kick it old school: Put the Olympics on a communal TV in the office.
Herb Weisbaum, a columnist for MSNBC, explains the rationale for that plan:
“Your employees will want to know what's happening, so you might as well plan to deal with it in a way that's positive — maybe even good for morale — rather than something that's going to hurt your business.”