With just seconds left in stoppage time, the underdog team that’s behind nails a penalty kick sending the football match into overtime. Meanwhile, managers bite their tongues. They don’t want to break up the fun, but their office team is spending way too much time smartphone streaming and worrying about the ref’s calls, and not enough getting projects done.
It’s a scene playing out across Europe and around the world right now, as millions of fans fill out brackets and feverishly follow the end of the Round of 16 in the Euro Cup in France. With two weeks still left in the tournament, it’s important that you huddle with your team to discuss work-sport balance.
A goal may not be worth losing your job over (unless it was Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri’s jaw-dropping bicycle kick wonder goal), but if you proactively and honestly discuss expectations for work, watching Euro Cup at work can actually help to build team morale, rather than become a productivity killer and performance problem.
Sports vs. Work: The Real Cost of Lost Productivity
A similar major sports tournament in the U.S., NCAA’s March Madness (university basketball), has been estimated to cost companies between $100 million and $4 billion in lost productivity during the three week tournament, according to outplacement consulting firms like Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Employees obsessively checking scores, updates and Social media feeds under their desks, in hallways, in bathrooms, at lunch and more add minutes and hours on the scoreboard of lost time. However, if managed properly, employees can still enjoy and get their work done, and the event can even lead to better team morale and productivity.
If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ‘em
You’ve heard the old saying and in this case, HR and business analysts say resisting and forcing employees not to tune into the excitement of the Euro Cup is futile. Instead, consulting firm Challenger recommends making a TV or computer streaming the events available in the break room. It brings it out in the open, so employees don’t have to covertly multitask — which is actually much less efficient. A manager can keep an eye out on the breaks and discuss with a team member if the distraction gets to be too much.
Another approach to handle the situation suggested by HR experts, is to allow more flexible working hours during the event. Employees can come in a little later or finish sooner, and talk to their manager about when they can commit to making up the time. You can also allow employees to swap shifts with the manager’s permission, so no work goes undone, and employees can still follow their favorite team — a win-win.
Score Big Points for Team Morale
Some analysts say that sporting tournaments like the Euro Cup area actually provide the perfect opportunity to build up worker morale. A survey of 1,000 office managers found that sporting events increased employee happiness and 32 percent of senior managers say they have a positive impact on office morale (Office Team 2016 survey).
Score big with your team by allowing long lunches to catch a game or closing up shop early to host a workplace happy hour. These activities can build goodwill among employees and make them more willing and motivated to help out the company next time it is in need of a few extra hours.
In an interview with BizTech Magazine, Matthew Mercuri, a digital marketing manager said that when he started allowing his team to openly engage in sporting events at work instead of trying to look busy and hide the activity, he actually saw an increase in productivity and his team finished two large projects ahead of schedule while a tournament was happening.
They felt like it was a really good environment where they could do two things at once. When leaders or bosses give a perk to employees, they want to pay it back. The people who work here aren’t here to leech off the company. We have a good team. – Matthew Mercuri
Don Forsyth agrees. As a professor at the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies, he is an expert in group dynamics and has extensively studied the effects of sporting events in the workplace. Forsyth says that while employees could be less productive for a few days, there are plenty of benefits that arise from the seemingly endless schedule of games.
It can draw people together. You’re able to use those moments to build valuable interpersonal relationships. – Don Forsyth
So, before the Quarter Finals of the Euro Cup begin, have a huddle with your team, explain the rules, be open and embrace the fervor for the championship and turn it into a win for your company. Good luck to all of the teams out there on the field and the millions of teams watching from their offices!
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