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Canadian companies are expecting their employees to be more than a little distracted this week. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
Canadian companies are expecting their employees to be more than a little distracted this week. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Hockey at the office: Balancing bodychecks and paycheques Add to ...

With two gut-wrenching Olympic hockey games set to take place during office hours Thursday and Friday, Canadian companies are expecting their employees to be more than a little distracted.

Many firms are anticipating intense interest in the women’s final and the men’s semi-final, and won’t object if their staff gather around televisions and computer screens to watch the action. But they also expect some work to get done.

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Chris Gerritsen, spokeman for Telus Inc. acknowledged that there is no way to keep employees from catching some of the games. “Many of our offices have lounge areas that have TVs, so people will be watching,” he said.

Mr. Gerritsen said he doesn’t expect there to be any significant dent in productivity. “Our employees are dedicated and get the job done. It doesn’t really have any impact on our operations.” All the same, he said, managers will be flexible “especially when it comes to cheering for Canada.”

At Royal Bank of Canada, a major Olympic sponsor, there is a “fine balance” between getting work done and making sure its 52,000 employees are caught up in the excitement, said Matt McGlynn, senior manager of brand marketing.

“We want employees to get swept up in this, but our clients come first and servicing them is the number one priority,” he said. “Our employees are professionals and they understand that, but if there is an opportunity for them to sneak away and watch the game, we are more than supportive if they can fit that into their day. We trust them to have good judgment.”

While interest in watching Olympics has been strong during all of the games, “the pride is amplified about tenfold” during the last rounds of hockey, Mr. McGlynn said.

With so many officer workers – and everyone else – watching live feeds of the games on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices, there has been pressure on internet providers to make sure they can handle traffic. Tina Furlan, director of marketing at Ontario Internet provider Teksavvy, said her company anticipated a spike in usage during the Olympics, and prepared accordingly. Before the games began, Teksavvy added 15 gigabytes of capacity to its network to ensure customers didn’t have problems, Ms. Furlan said.

Because it is so easy to get access to Olympic coverage, it is pretty much impossible to keep people’s minds and eyes off the big hockey games, even at work. And it makes no sense to try to do so, said human resources consultant Gerlinde Herrmann, president of the Herrmann Group Ltd. in Toronto.

“It’s better for employers to find a way to embrace the excitement and the pride,” she said. “Happy employees are much more productive.” If a company were to try to keep workers from watching the games, it would build resentment and backfire in terms of morale, she said.

Sarah Borg-Olivier, senior vice-president of communications for Capstone Infrastructure Corp., said that’s the approach her company is taking with the games. “We have a results-oriented environment and trust that our staff are able to balance their Olympic spirit with their work responsibilities,” she said. “So while productivity may be little lower during the games, the workday will likely be a bit longer than usual, too.”

Even in factories, where production can’t be interrupted, employers will make some allowances.

Andrew Violi, president of Mellow Walk Footwear, a Toronto maker of safety shoes, said while many of his staff are more interested in soccer, “we do have a few staff who are pretty serious about hockey.” Production won’t stop for the games, but “I don’t mind if staff want to listen to the hockey game on a radio at their work stations. As long as work goes on and shoes get made I’m okay with it.”

At some workplaces, companies jump in with both feet. At Coastal Contacts Inc., a Vancouver-based maker and distributor of contact lenses, “we are all huge sports fans,” said chief corporate development officer Terry Vanderkruyk in an e-mail. “TVs will be on [and] jerseys encouraged. Go Canada!!!!!!”

With a report from Omar El Akkad

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