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Build Your Career Office Life

Will Employee Productivity Take a Dive During the Olympics?

Will Employee Productivity Take a Dive During the Olympics?
Credit: Lazy Llama/Shutterstock

As we prepare to light the torch on the 2016 Olympic Games, many employees say they won't let work get in the way of them watching their favorite competitions, new research finds.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. employees – an estimated 55 million – said they expect to watch some Olympic events live during working hours, according to the study from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc.

Specifically, 17 percent will make up an excuse to leave work early, come in late or call in sick; 33 percent will stream the event live while working; and 28 percent will try to change their shift or work different hours. Just 18 percent of those surveyed said they would take paid time off to watch their favorite sport. [See Related Story: Absent Employees Might Just Be 'Sick' of Working]

"There are very few events that capture the world's attention like the Summer Olympics – and even fewer that air during typical working hours," Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos, said in a statement. "Despite an employer's best attempts to prohibit employees from watching major sporting events live, there is plenty of proof that employees will find a way through online streaming, shift swapping, or playing hooky."

As long as it's done appropriately and responsibly, most employees believe there isn't anything wrong with taking some time out of their workday to check in on what's going on in Rio. More than half of those surveyed who plan to watch the Summer Games feel it is appropriate for an employee to spend up to 30 minutes of their workday watching, following or reading about the Olympics, while 18 percent think spending more than 45 minutes keeping tabs on the games is acceptable. Only 8 percent of workers think it's OK to spend more than hour of their workday watching their favorite sports.

As for what sports workers are most likely to tune into, basketball, gymnastics and swimming take top billing. The study found that 40 percent of employees would opt to watch basketball while at work, 40 percent would tune into gymnastics and 37 percent would watch swimming during their workday.

While 60 percent of those surveyed don't believe their employer would support employees watching Olympic events while at work, and 63 percent think their company's culture does not allow the flexibility to watch major sporting events during work hours, Maroney says this is a good opportunity to build some camaraderie around the office.

"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," Maroney said.

She suggests employers consider setting up a viewing party in the breakroom, create friendly Olympic-themed competitions and have open conversations with employees to adjust their work schedules.

"Simply put: embracing the Olympics at work can help reduce the risk of unplanned absence, loss of productivity and distractions on the job," Maroney said.

The study was based on surveys of 911 full- and part-time employed U.S. adults.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.