The Olympic Games in Rio hold the promise of amazing feats of athletic prowess, but in the average American office, the only records broken during the games are likely to be for the least amount of work done in a day.
According to a new survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated, almost four in 10 people say they’ll watch a competition they’re interested in even if it falls during the workday. Among those 55 million workers, 17% admit they’ll leave early, come in late, or just call in sick. (Just don’t blame the Zika virus — that might be a giveaway.)
One-third will be at their desks, but they’ll be streaming the game or competition instead of working, so don’t be surprised if they take some extra time replying to your email or turn up late for a meeting. The remainder will at least try to be diligent about it, saying they’ll either try to change their hours or take a personal day to feed their Olympic obsession.
As for who gets the gold medal of slackerdom, that would be basketball fans. Almost half said they’d prioritize the games instead of their work. Gymnastics fans get the silver, with 40% of them admitting they’d blow off work to watch the competition. Swimming, track and field, and boxing, respectively, were the next most-popular sports that can distract people from their jobs.
If you’re finding that Olympic brain drain is causing messages to go unreturned or deadlines unmet, don’t be surprised. Today’s workers are pretty entitled when it comes to Olympics-watching during the workday: More than three-quarters say it’s “appropriate” for them to take work time to watch a competition or check scores—and a surprising 56% think it’s just fine for them or their colleagues to spend half an hour of the workday watching, listening to, or reading about the games, and almost 10% think it’s reasonable to spend an hour or more concentrating on the Games instead of their jobs.
The Workforce Institute at Kronos director Joyce Maroney suggests that companies adopt an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to managing productivity around the Summer Olympic Games: For instance, suggest a company — or department-wide — viewing party where popular events can be streamed in a conference room for employees to watch, or set up a (non-monetary) pool or contest where workers can root for their favorite athletes or teams.