Soccer Break: Why It Pays to Watch the World Cup at Work - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Soccer Break: Why It Pays to Watch the World Cup at Work

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© United States' Clint Dempsey celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. © United States' Clint Dempsey celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.
Americans aren’t really known for their devotion to soccer, but come Thursday, there are going to be a lot of worker bees stuck in a quandary when the United States faces off against Germany at noon, Eastern Time. Perhaps surprisingly, HR is on your side here. “It’s an inspiring and motivating thing that’s going on, and we need to take advantage of that,” said Monique Honaman, founding partner of HR consulting company ISHR Group.

If your boss doesn’t agree, there are better alternatives to streaming it on your computer with the volume down and an anti-boss “panic button” app queued up in case he or she walks by. Here’s why human resources experts say you should turn on that TV in the conference room.

It builds camaraderie

“We work in a work environment today where people don’t know each other as well,” said John Challenger, CEO of executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “When people celebrate together, they get closer …. It’s a way of creating that kind of positive vibe that's valuable in terms of productivity,” he said.

It’s a good global conversation topic

The World Cup gives employees a ready-made topic of conversation when interacting with international partners, Honaman said. “From a global perspective, we’re learning more about a sport the rest of the world loves,” she said. “We’re seldom able to join in that conversation because we don’t know enough about it.”

It’s good for recruitment and retention

“Showing that the company is pro-U.S.A. and a great place to work is good for turnover and helps with recruitment,” said Heidi Golledge, CEO and co-founder of CareerBliss.com. In fields where competition for talent is fierce, something like Facebook photos on the company page of workers cheering on the team sends a positive message to prospective employees.

It’s going to happen anyway, and IT will suffer

Banning employees from watching the game won’t stop them. It’s just going to make them sneakier — and lots of surreptitious streaming could slow the company’s Internet access to a crawl, said Jack Cullen, president of Modis IT Staffing. “People wanting to do work will have a more difficult time because the network is slower,” he said.

People will feign illness

A ban on the game will prompt some workers to just call in sick, Challenger predicted, and unscheduled absences can wreak more havoc on productivity than having people just leaving their desks periodically. At best, it will mean extra-long lunches on the East Coast and in the Midwest, and late arrivals in the West.

It’s uniquely unifying

The World Cup is different from March Madness or the Super Bowl because those events can foster an us-versus-them mentality. “We really, as a country, don't come together all that often to unify around something,” Honaman said. “We’re always so divisive. This is kind of unifying,” she said. “I think a lot of it is about patriotism, even if you’re not a soccer fan.”

And ... you have permission from the coach

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann tweeted a permission slip, saying "I understand that this absence may reduce productivity of your workplace, but I can assure that it is for an important cause."

Martha C. White is an NBC News contributor. She started in this role in 2010. White writes about business, finance and the economy. Her work has appeared in Time.com, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate.com and Fast Company. She lives in upstate New York.

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