world cup prioritiesThe United States and Germany, each with a proverbial foot in the door to the World Cup’s Round of 16, only need a draw in their head-to-head Group G match today to reach the knockout round. It’s a reality reportedly doubling as a nightmare scenario for FIFA, which dealt with a similar situation in 1982.

In any sport, playing an ultra-conservative match to avoid losing is less than ideal. But should bosses across America really be the ones biting their nails? Employees from coast to coast are expected to collectively take the year’s longest lunch break.

The US-Germany match begins at noon (EST) – smack-dab in the middle of the work day.

Translation: Productivity may drop faster than Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, whose shoulder became the most unlikely World Cup cuisine on Tuesday. Support for US Soccer, after all, is at an all-time high. Earlier this week, it was widely reported that Team USA’s previous matches against Ghana and Portugal attracted record-setting audiences on television and the Internet.

But here’s the kicker (pardon the pun): Team USA’s previous World Cup matches weren’t played during office hours.

With what’s at stake today, it’s unrealistic to think workers won’t watch on office televisions, PCs and mobile devices – plus post their real-time reactions on social media. This pivotal match in the so-called “Group of Death” is a sure distraction, one that may consume a good portion of corporate bandwidth.

John Challenger suggests letting your employees enjoy the match. The CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a firm known for tracking productivity drop-off during the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, told Chicago’s WLS-TV:

“Even if twice as many working Americans end up watching the game, it is unlikely that employers will actually see an impact on their bottom line.”

Challenger’s assertion makes sense. Compared to the sports most Americans are known for watching, soccer matches are quick. Play rarely stops. Office productivity may drop, but not for long.

There may be an even bigger reason, Challenger said, to treat this match as a special occasion:

“Whatever positive impact companies realize by instituting a strict one-hour lunch break policy or by blocking (live-streaming websites) will be undone by the negative impact on loyalty. Employers should instead embrace this opportunity to boost morale.”

Still, IT admins are wise to watch employee web browsing habits with an especially keen eye during the match. Reminding workers beforehand about best practices for web browsing – specifically the need to stay away from suspicious links – is also worthwhile.

As for bosses, consider calling your staff into the conference room – where you’re airing the match and providing lunch. There’s nothing better than an upbeat and energized workforce.

Good will goes a long way.


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