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The World Cup’s Impact On Productivity

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The folks at Mashable were touting an infographic that complained about “lost productivity” due to the 2010 World Cup. It was filled with bogus, deceptive figures that make our blood boil.

The original story mostly consists of the image, which we’ve repeated below. Take a look, and scroll down for our commentary and a treat:

productivity growth and the world cup

We could spent lots of time tearing into these numbers, but several columnists have already done a great job explaining why this is a meaningless exercise. Megan McArdle, writing for The Atlantic, simply notes:

The amount of guesswork necessary in these estimates make it difficult to accurately gauge the cost of productivity lost due sporting events. Most of these estimates are hype and fuzzy math or ignore the built-in costs of everyday interruptions.

There’s also a great article on Slate which attacks attacks productivity losses during last year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.

So after seeing how bogus those stats were and the ridiculous arguments that were pulled from it, we decided to make a diagram of our own. We think this one is a lot more accurate of a depiction on how the World Cup really affects the workplace when it rolls around every few years.

Here is our take on that same diagram:

employee productivity world cup

The pressing issue here isn’t so much that this specific chart made some bogus conclusions. It’s that charts like this are all over the internet and people will reshare them as if they’re as valid as actually valuable information. Bosses may actually look at this information and use it as a reason to limit the access of employees, whether it’s to social media, to streaming sites, or to the internet in general.

Picture this scenario. You’ve got an employee who is a huge soccer fan. They don’t have enough vacation days to take off for the entire World Cup, so instead they go to work, where you won’t let them check on scores. So instead of taking a quick second to go online and see if England beat Columbia, they have to find another way to get the results, out of fear of being reprimanded. So they sneak away for a multitude of bathroom breaks in order to check the results on their phone from the safety of a bathroom stall. Then you realize that they’re sneaking away, so you have them leave the phone when they go to the bathroom. So instead of quickly checking the scores and then going about a productive day, this employee is distracted, feeling unvalued, and likely ready to get out of that office as soon as the clock strikes five. Is that really better than just allowing employees to have the game going in a separate window while they do their usual work?

That may seem like a bit extreme of an example to you, and if that’s the case, you’re lucky to not have been faced with a situation like that before. Unfortunately, for many readers, that exact situation is going to seem all too real. It’s something that far too many people have had to deal with at work. We all know a good employee shouldn’t be checking their phone every five minutes or watching a sports game instead of focusing on a project, that’s just not a productive way to get work done, but the motivation to focus on work should come from the desire to do quality work, not from an employer’s fears that are promoted by a heap of completely unfounded or misleading statistics.

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© Flickr user David365

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