World Cup Taking a Bite Out of Worker Productivity

American workers will be glued today to TV sets and computer screens.

June 26, 2014, 4:33 AM

— -- American workplaces have been faced with a new dilemma as the World Cup heats up and the U.S. continues on in the tournament: What do you do with employees who want to get into the patriotic spirit and watch the matches?

Indeed, employers are finding that they often have to take a stance.

Buster, a foreign-exchange trader in New York City who asked that his real name not be used, said he was scolded by his manager for wearing a Brazil shirt.

According to Buster, his boss asked, "Are we not going to even care about being a professional anymore?"

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Buster said he replied, "Aren't we allowed to wear golf shirts in summer?"

His boss, according to Buster, retorted: "Exactly, it is a f****** golf shirt, not something you wear to work!"

Despite a seemingly conservative dress code in the office, Buster said all office televisions have been tuned to the World Cup games -- and some employees even have the matches streaming on their computer monitors.

However, growing interest in the U.S., especially after beating Ghana last week and tying Portugal 2-2 in a nail-bitingly close game on Sunday, may be taking a hit on productivity in some offices around the country.

The do-or-die game between the U.S. and Germany is expected to be another opportunity for office workers to be distracted from their jobs.

"[Today] will be the deadest day in the market we've seen in a while," Buster predicted, adding that the 12 p.m. kickoff time will likely create "mayhem" in the office.

Over 50 percent of working professionals watched or listened to World Cup matches at work this year, according to an informal poll conducted Monday by Captivate Network. Of the people surveyed, 69 percent reported seeing co-workers watching or listening to the World Cup, according to the poll.

Twenty-three percent of respondents said productivity has decreased due to the World Cup. However, men (32 percent) and senior managers (30 percent) were more likely to say productivity has decreased due to the soccer tournament.

Based on the average salary of employed adults and the typical viewing time at work during the World Cup over the past two weeks, approximately $1.68 billion will be lost in productivity in the U.S., according to Captivate Network.

The estimate was based on an online panel with 714 people in 15 major metropolitan centers in the U.S. and Canada.

Depending on how Team USA does, American excitement over the World Cup may fade -- although 60 percent of Captivate's respondents said that they plan to watch the World Cup until it concludes on July 13 with the final.

Financial services companies likely have some of the most traditional work environments, so stories like Buster's aren't surprising to Jacqui Stafford, celebrity stylist and author of The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget.

"While it depends on your work environment, banking and corporate America tends to frown on work-casual," Stafford told ABC News.

She advises workers keep their sports gear for after hours.

"You never want to stir up anything controversial that could steer away from your work," she said. "We always say, 'It doesn’t matter and you can be who you are,' but you really are judged by what you wear. People form an opinion of you. You want to dress for the job that you want in today’s economy."

Stafford said she tends to go the safe route and even frowns upon USA World Cup polo-style shirts. But Stafford doesn't hold anything against soccer fans.

"I'm a huge football fan, obviously. I’m British. But I don't wear Rangers sweatshirts to the office either."

Team USA joked about worker absences, posting a mock excuse form on Twitter signed by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

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