Some Boston Area Offices Embrace World Cup Fever

Dyn employees catch some of Monday’s Croatia-Mexico match at the company’s New Hampshire headquarters.
Dyn employees catch some of Monday’s Croatia-Mexico match at the company’s New Hampshire headquarters.
Dyn

The United States has a pretty big soccer game on its schedule today at the World Cup against global powerhouse Germany. The match’s outcome could determine whether the US’s World Cup bid remains alive, and it comes on the heels of a record TV rating in the Yanks’ Sunday night tilt against Portugal, so it figures to captivate the nation.

One thing: The game starts right in the middle of the workday, at noon.

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That timing figures to cut into a good chunk of American workers’ productivity, as fans tune into streaming services or even consider taking a sick day. So some area companies plan to just embrace World Cup fever.

“People will just go into their offices to watch anyway,” says Paiman Nodoushani, the CTO of Continuum Managed IT Services, which keeps its headquarters in downtown Boston.

With that in mind, Continuum has decided to set up a projector showing the game, and is ordering pizza for the team. About 60 employees work in the Boston office. The company also has offices in Pittsburgh and in India. The Pittsburgh office also plans to take the two-hour break during the day.

A company-hosted party will also be held at Yesware, a Google Ventures-funded startup with just over 40 employees in its downtown office that offers email services to salespeople. Chris Sarno, the company’s vice president of finance, says he ordered hot dogs and hamburgers for Americana purposes, and expects most employees to watch the game in the company’s common area.

Other companies aren’t hosting watching parties, per se, but are facilitating their employees catching the game. Internet traffic management company Dyn, based in Manchester, N.H., has broadcast soccer games throughout the World Cup. The company has several TVs throughout its offices and expects employees to gather around them in force during the US-Germany game today, Dyn VP of Talent and Culture Colleen Karpinsky Cone said. Dyn employs about 350 people.

Waltham-based digital marketing company Constant Contact will also have the game on TVs throughout the office, and said many of its 1,200 employees have been planning to watch the game and order food together. Chief Human Resource Officer Bob Nicoson says Constant Contact is very open to allowing employees downtime at work, but tends not to organize social events at work from the top down. “It’s kind of hard to legislate fun,” he says.

With many companies either hosting watch parties or enacting a laissez-faire attitude to how their employees take the match in, it begs the question of whether any work will get done at all Thursday. After all, it’s not hard to imagine employee productivity being a lost cause not just during the game, but in its run-up or aftermath.

But the answer to those questions, in many ways, point to how work gets done today. Nodoushani says Continuum employees always have their phones on them, so if something urgent comes up they will still receive the call or email alerting them. Karpinsky Cone added that many Dyn employees have been gathering with their laptop in tow. She added that big group viewing events even carries some productivity benefits. “It makes it a lot easier to know where to find somebody if you need them,” she said.

And to be sure, the World Cup is hardly the first viewing spectacle to interrupt a workday. Yesware’s Sarno points to the March Madness basketball tournament, which the company broadcast at work earlier this year. “I think it helps (our ability to get back to work) that we do this kind of thing all the time,” he says.

Meanwhile, all four companies say some workday socializing carries the benefit of building camaraderie between employees. Taken that way, any two-hour drop in productivity might be looked at as a longer-term investment in growing the company’s culture. On the flipside, a more draconian approach could have detrimental effects on morale.

“We try to make an environment people want to come in to,” Sarno says.

All four of the companies I spoke with are in the tech sector, which tends to put a lot of stock into employee happiness and corporate culture. Not every office figures to be so lax, though. So if you’re hoping to tune in today in spite of a less-than-accommodating boss, I’ll just leave this little link right here. Come noon, you’ll know what to do.