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The World Cup in the workplace - no keeper can stop it Add to ...

Customers dialing up Rogers Communications Inc.'s service centre in the coming month should have their account number on hand, be aware their call could be recorded, and one more thing: don't be alarmed at the occasional shout of "goooooal!" in the background.

That's because at its call centre in Brampton, the Canadian telecommunications giant has wheeled in four giant projection screens to allow employees to catch World Cup games.

In Brampton, Rogers has opted to face head-on the possibility of lost productivity during this global sports event. Almost all World Cup matches will take place during regular work hours in North America. Rather than pretend employees won't be focused on the tournament, Rogers is supplying the screens - some playing silently for those taking calls, and one that will sit in the cafeteria, volume cranked up.

"My guess is that the rationale is they don't want to have too many people calling in sick," said Adam Burza, 36, a Rogers call-centre manager who was taking in the Germany-Australia game at the Dizzy sports pub on Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto's west end on Sunday afternoon. "A happy employee is a productive employee."



With online sports viewing on the rise, even employees without giant screens are likely to move their eyes from work projects to the soccer pitch.

By the end of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, 5.4 million hours of video had been viewed on CTVolympics.ca and RDSolympiques.ca, a huge increase over the viewing of CBC's online content during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Time spent watching sports at work can add up for employers. During March Madness, it was estimated that distracted basketball fans could cost roughly $1.8-billion (U.S.) in productivity, according to consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

TD senior strategist Millan Mulraine had a similar prediction for the World Cup. "I've taken a few glances at it while working, so I can testify to the fact that, yes, productivity will likely decline during events," he said. Many TVs on the trading floor that normally show business news were tuned to the World Cup on Friday, he said.





"Definitely, there's soccer fever in the office, so people will quickly check it online, and there are pools," said Kate Sanderson, an account manager with boutique marketing firm M Marketing in Toronto. However, she said World Cup viewing was mostly limited and all online. "We have a lovely flat screen in the boardroom, but people work really hard there so I haven't seen it on yet."

Cubicle dwellers seem to have most access to broadcasts when their employers have a stake in the event. At CIBC - which, like Rogers, is a sponsor - the company intranet site posts live updates on scores, and TVs in the office and the food court are tuned in to games, a spokesperson said.

Other workplaces are less accommodating to employees who want to catch a game. At the Dizzy sports pub, an IT worker who asked to be referred to only as Doug, said he would not risk watching online at work. "They can trace that [stuff]" he said. "I'd do it on an iPhone or something."



Bento De Sao Jose, the 71-year-old proprietor of Bento's Auto & Tire Service Centre in Toronto, has also introduced two TVs into his showroom and waiting room, though not the shop floor. When there's a roar from the screen during the World Cup, his mechanics - who, like the customers, come from all over the world - often rush into the room to watch.

"We are international. We have people from China, from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan," he said.

Reza Davood, who works there part time, waited for Mr. De Sao Jose to walk away before admitting he spends some of his work time glued to the TV. "If the boss is not around, absolutely we'll watch," he said.



With a report from Tara Perkins

With files from The Canadian Press

Follow us on Twitter: @iainmarlow, @susinsky

 

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