Some noise has been made in the media about how this year’s FIFA World Cup soccer tournament will drag down the productivity of highly distracted employees, especially given the British Broadcasting Corp. and other major media companies’ moves to stream live coverage of the games over the Web. The international event is expected to draw an audience of 320 million viewers overall—more than the Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Finals put together, or for you non-sports fans, about 20 million more than the population of the entire United States.
A new survey commissioned by St. Bernard Software Inc., which provides enterprise security solutions, shows that IT managers at 85 percent of organizations aren’t planning to obstruct employees’ Internet access to prevent them from visiting any World Cup-related Web sites, such as discussion boards and pages that either show updated scores or actually broadcast games. As a result, some folks have concluded that the soccer hooligans who inhabit cube farms around the world won’t get any work done during the tournament, and thus employers should do everything they can to limit their Web surfing to follow this event.
There are a few flaws in this argument. First of all, the Internet is so vast and wide-ranging that it always has the potential for diversion. Plus, some sports—such as Major League Baseball—have been broadcast in audio and video via the Web for some time now. In spite of the potential for online distraction, though, people are still getting work done. In fact, productivity numbers continue to go up every year and are higher than ever, even as the Internet gets bigger and faster.
Additionally, as some people have pointed out, past World Cups have been periods of unusually high employee absenteeism. Workers will mysteriously come down with something on the day their country’s team (or just a team they happen to like) is playing. If employers cut off all World Cup-related surfing, they might find that their soccer-crazy staff just doesn’t show up. Thus, they’ll have gone from less productivity (in theory) to none whatsoever.
Stories like this are good for amusement, though, if nothing else. Kinda reminds me of the“Star Wars Flu.”