Soccer fever epidemic runs through bay area workplaces

U.S. soccer fans in Brazil celebrate a goal in Sunday’s game.
U.S. soccer fans in Brazil celebrate a goal in Sunday’s game.
Published June 26, 2014

Businesses the world over face a productivity problem, and we're not talking about inadequate education or a shortage of capital investment. No, it's the World Cup. Take today's crucial match between the United States and Germany, which falls in the middle of the business day. For workers, the question is "How to watch?'' For employers, it's either "How do we stop them?'' or " Let's join the fun!''

Times wires and staff

Let's party!

Some companies like website consulting firm Socius Marketing in Tampa plan watch parties during lunchtime Thursday, bringing in pizza for their cheering masses. Others, like the Tampa unit of Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau, will have TVs blaring the games in conference rooms, even if no formal festivity is planned.

Jacintha Anderson, Socius' public relations manager, isn't concerned the camaraderie will lead to lost productivity. Workers already have some flexibility to make up lost time and work longer hours certain weekdays as long as they meet monthly goals.

And it's hard to harness the enthusiasm. "We have a lot of soccer fans in the office," Anderson said, "and the TV has been on a lot the past couple of weeks."

A boost for productivity?

According to Wilfrid Laurier University psychology professor Anne Wilson, despite the distraction, letting workers enjoy the beautiful game can actually be a good thing for business.

"People talk a lot about the potential for lost productivity, and there certainly is that potential," said Wilson, a researcher at Waterloo-based Plasticity Labs. "But as a manager, if you leverage that for positive effect rather than for negative effect, it can actually end up transforming into something more positive for your company in the long-run."

Wilson said the bonds built between co-workers enjoying a common activity will outweigh any short-term losses.

– From Canadian broadcast company CTV.

The view from a think tank

Researchers have yet to release any estimate on U.S. productivity loss during this World Cup, but during the last tournament in 2010, InsideView projected that the U.S. economy lost $121.7 million, due to 21 million Americans watching for 10 work-minutes a day.

But such calculations don't quite jive with how most employees work, said Stan Veuger, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute, who took a break from watching the Spain-Netherlands match earlier this month to speak with CNBC. "They assume people don't plan around this and just actively stop work to watch," he said. There's no accounting for fans who anticipate game-day distraction, and so schedule their days accordingly."

– Kelli B. Grant, NBC News

Landon Donovon speaks out

The Los Angeles Galaxy highly professional soccer teams has released a new commercial telling Americans to "Skip Work" and "Watch the World Cup."

Naturally, the ad shows Galaxy star and U.S. men's national team castaway Landon Donovan playing the role of the one poor sap who shows up for work during the Cup. Donovan presides over the phone lines in the Galaxy's otherwise empty office. He's so very alone, but so very much a hero for this ad (which you can see at

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– Dan Carson, Bleacher Report.

Some workers won't be watching

Some Chinese airlines have banned their pilots from staying up late to watch World Cup football matches for safety reasons.

"Watching the World Cup will affect work and safety," China Southern Airlines, the country's largest carrier in terms of fleet, said in a notice to its employees.

China Southern is focusing on preventing the risks of pilot fatigue and drinking problems that may result from watching the games, the notice said.

– China Daily/Asia News Network

A sudden medical crisis

Need time off from work to watch the World Cup? If you're in China, no problem. Online stores there are providing fake doctor's notes — even extensive falsified medical records — to get you days of sick leave so you can enjoy your favorite teams.

– Frank Langfitt, NPR

Loving soccer in the Silicon Valley

A handful of top tech companies are not only allowing their employees to catch the action but also encouraging it. On the West Coast, in Silicon Valley, firms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Zynga, Facebook, Nvidia and Evernote have been hosting on-site World Cup viewing parties.

– Derek Loosvelt, on the professional development website