Will the World Cup Kill Productivity?

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There is no doubt that the World Cup 2010, which kicked off today, is inspiring workers across the globe to be less productive. Of course, just how lackadaisical the tournament is making employees varies from country to country.  

Concerns over workplace productivity in the host country of South Africa seem to be the highest as 1.1 million tickets have been purchased to the tournament.

“Gauging by the number of tickets bought by South Africans, we need to take into account the likely impact of the tournament on workplace productivity given that several matches will be played during office hours,” Motlatsi Gabaocwe, Senior researcher at Productivity SA said in a press relase. “Workplace productivity is bound to be affected and employers should be concerned about the issue of employee absenteeism and the resulting productivity loss.”

In Britain, more than 40% of workers are expected to take time off to watch the festivities or recover from watching the festivities, according to research released by the Chartered Management Institute. Additionally, 54% percent of British employers are afraid their employees will be distracted by online coverage of the tournament.

In New Zealand, recruitment & HR service company Randstad issued a press release to companies saying “employees may watch replays on computers in the office, have post-match pow wows, track their tipping competitions, as well as participate in online forums, particularly as the final approaches.”

Other countries expected to be particularly distracted by the World Cup include the Netherlands (which has a history of soccer-related sick days), Spain, Ireland, Argentina and Portugal. The Middle East is also home to some workers playing hookie. In a survey by GulfTalent.com, one out of every five workers in the Middle East copped to plans to take time off from work.

U.S. employers will be happy to know that, over here in the States, the situation is less serious. According to Reuters, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that employees won’t be as distracted by the World Cup as they would be by other prominent sporting events.

“Soccer simply has not caught on with the majority of American sports fans,” CEO John Challenger said in a blog post. “However, the World Cup is a unique event and could attract a lot of viewers who might not typically go out of the way to watch a match. Even as the sport grows in popularity, though, it will have far less of an impact on workplace productivity than the March Madness basketball tournament, for example.”

Challenger ranked the World Cup fourth on his list of American productivity killers behind March Madness, NFL Fantasy Football and the Super Bowl. Other events that made his list include college football season, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA finals, the Olympics and, interestingly, Apple product announcements.

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