Don’t let the Super Bowl deflate the workplace

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. And, while neither the Seahawks nor the 49ers are in the big game, you can bet plenty of Northwesters will be among the approximately 100 million watching. Whether a passionate Patriots fan or a fanatic Falcon fan, the big game can be a major distraction and disruption in the workplace.

Recent surveys show employers lose over $100 million each year in wages due to employees taking time away from work for the Super Bowl. Even if physically present, employees make plans before the game, or they come in with the “brown bag flu” on the Monday morning after, which has an impact on productivity; some estimates put that hit at over $800 million. Given the significant impact the Super Bowl can have on the workplace, employers and employees should keep a couple of tips in mind as the game approaches.

Tips for employees:

  • The Super Bowl does not provide a free pass to disobey workplace rules and policies. Even if an employee is the world’s biggest Patriots fan and thinks Tom Brady is a dreamboat, don’t presume it is ok to wear his jersey to work without checking with the boss first.
  • Be careful not to take things too far; co-workers and supervisors may not appreciate a worker’s level of enthusiasm before the game, or gloating or sulking after. Keep it professional and appropriate for the workplace.
  • Be careful about betting pools or other wagering on the game. Gambling may be against company policy or even against the law. Even if it is legal, gambling can lead to hard feelings and friction with other employees.
  • Finally, employees must go to work on Monday! More than five million workers fail to come into work on time (or at all) the Monday after the Super Bowl. Calling in sick will be highly suspicious and may damage a worker’s reputation if the boss thinks a hangover is to blame.

Employers generally try to accommodate their employees’ enthusiasm for the big game. After all, owners of businesses and supervisors can be sports fans, too, and this is not the multi-week shot to productivity known as March Madness. That said, employers should impose some limits to make sure the workplace continues to function properly.

Tips for employers:

  • Consider adopting and enforcing a no gambling policy – office pools really can be a huge suck on employees’ productivity and some employees may feel pressured to participate even if they do not want to.
  • Consider trying to preempt such pools by creating a non-monetary pool and prohibiting employees from gambling otherwise.
    Remind employees of attendance policies and make sure employees know that they do not have a free pass to miss work on Monday. Depending on the office culture (and the type of work performed) employers might consider embracing the celebration to some extent – e.g., by having a small party on Friday or allowing employees to wear jerseys to work – which can help boost morale overall.

Employers generally have freedom to decide how to approach this issue. It’s a fun occasion and presents an opportunity for employers to boost morale, but that must be weighed against the needs of the business. Likewise, employees should enjoy the game, but realize that misconduct will not be excused just because Brady and Belichick are in their seventh Super Bowl.

Alex Wheatley is an associate in the Portland office of Fisher Phillips LLP. He defends employers in employment-related administrative claims and lawsuits and has litigated several jury trials and argued numerous motions in both state and federal court. He also advises and provides training to company owners and supervisors on issues relating to workplace discrimination, family leave, wage and hour laws, and noncompetition, nonsoliciation and nondisclosure agreements.

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