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When sports fever invades the office

By Nick Easen for CNN

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Could watching sport at work reduce absenteeism and lead to a more responsible approach to workloads?
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London, England (CNN) -- Euro 2004, the Olympics in Athens, the Tour de France and Wimbledon -- sports fever is here.

These major events are likely to dominate the lives of sports-crazed people worldwide in the months ahead, infiltrating many workplace conversations.

However, time zone differences leading to awkward kickoff, playing and start times will mean that some fans will be stuck in the office when that important event is lost or won.

Some understanding employers are allowing their staff to watch events live during the working day on communal television screens, but others are less sympathetic.

According to a recent poll, 49 percent of British workers are not allowed to watch Euro 2004 football matches under any circumstances when they are in the office.

"If the demands of the business allow for employees to finish at 5pm to watch the matches, it can be a great morale boosting opportunity," says Andrew Wilkinson of Monster Worldwide, the recruitment company who conducted the survey.

"Ultimately, if employees are given the choice to watch key matches it may result in reduced absenteeism and a more responsible approach to personal workloads."

Out of the 460 workers surveyed, 19 percent said that they had a sports fanatic boss who would allow them to watch matches at any time, 10 percent said they would only be allowed to watch the final.

Two years ago when the football World Cup was in full swing, UK lawyers and accountants reported a flexible approach to office viewing, according to the Financial Times newspaper.

Employees were allowed to watch games at work and make up the time later. At insurers AXA Sun Life, viewing facilities were even set up in staff restaurants.

In the U.S. there are 36.3 million people above the age of 18 who watch television outside of their home -- according to a recent study sponsored by sports channel ESPN -- and 14 percent of them are watching in the workplace.

And according to the Economic Times, televisions became more common in Indian workplaces in 2003 during the Cricket World Cup, although viewing was restricted to certain corporations.

Office sweepstakes

Popular office sweepstakes also spring up in many workplaces when major team sporting events are imminent.

In the U.S., "March Madness" -- the excitement surrounding the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- leads to a multitude of sporting pools in American offices.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that more than $2.4 billion is wagered illegally on this event each year -- a portion of which is in ever-popular work-based pools.


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