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Employees who want to follow the Games may be dragging down bandwidth, productivity and be cybersecurity risks
From desktops to handheld devices, starting Aug. 5, people will be watching the Olympic Games at work.
A study from the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. and Harris Poll found that the 2016 summer games are expected to surpass the 2012 London Olympics as the most-watched event in U.S. television history.
More than 55 million employed Americans will be watching the games over the next three weeks, many on desktops, laptops and smartphones during work hours.
This means HR will need to plan for decreases in bandwidth and productivity and address cybersecurity concerns.
Kronos found that, of the 73 percent of U.S. employees who plan to watch at least some of the 2016 summer games from Rio de Janeiro, half say they would consider watching an event live—even if it took place during work hours. Because Rio is only an hour behind the U.S. East Coast, the games will be played mostly while people are working.
Events and clips will also be available on a myriad of apps from sporting entities, news networks and social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Depending on what sites employees choose to stream from, watching the games may pose cybersecurity risks as well.
"Despite an employer's best attempts to prohibit employees from watching major sporting events live, there is plenty of proof that they will find a way through online streaming, shift swapping, or playing hooky," stated Joyce Maroney, director at the Workforce Institute at Kronos, in a news release.
"Instead of competing for their employees' attention, and potentially harming engagement in the process, employers can take this opportunity to build camaraderie and boost engagement through employee appreciation," she said.
Maroney and other experts suggest employers "set up a viewing party in the break room. Create a friendly Olympic-themed competition between your global offices. Have open conversations with employees to adjust their work schedules. Simply put: Embracing the Olympics at work can help reduce the risk of unplanned absence, loss of productivity and distractions on the job."
Brandi Britton, district president of administrative staffing firm OfficeTeam, added that "the Olympic Games don't have to negatively impact productivity and might actually keep workers on track by providing them with much-needed breaks."
According to an
OfficeTeam Survey, 38 percent of employees said they are distracted at work by major sporting events, up from 20 percent five years ago.
Pierre Tremblay, director of human resources for
Dupray, which sells steam cleaners and steam irons in six countries, told
SHRM Online that the Olympics "fosters competitiveness, teamwork, hard work and overall fun. At the end of the day, we need those same qualities in the office."
The increase in streaming could also impact office networks, said John Reed, executive director of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology.
"As we've seen with other potentially distracting activities, like March Madness or
even Pokémon go, it's important that managers explain to their teams what's acceptable and what their expectations are in order to ensure no loss of productivity," he said.
"Technology leaders may see an increase in streaming activities that could potentially impact the network. It's vital that there is a clear policy that outlines whether or not streaming is permitted on company devices and that the rules are clearly communicated throughout the organization," he said.
That's because whether they are at their desks or connected to corporate Wi-Fi networks on their own devices, "any device connected to a network is a potential threat to that network," said Tyler Cohen Wood, a cybersecurity advisor with
Inspired eLearning, in an interview with
SHRM Online. The company is based in San Antonio, Texas, and provides e-learning services.
"Policies should also account for the use of personal devices connected to Wi-Fi," Reed said.
Wood agreed: "Even if malware infects a device that is not connected to a corporate network at the time it is downloaded, as soon as that device connects to the network, there is the possibility that the malware can then be introduced into the network," she said. "Also, devices that contain sensitive corporate data are particularly at risk because malware can render that data accessible to hackers."
Employees need to be mindful that clicking on embedded links may cause malware to be downloaded to a device, computer or network as well. Wood added that "advertisements that contain links don't have to be clicked to be harmful—malware can be introduced as soon as the ad pops up.
"These can be major risks to enterprises. It is critical that companies employ a security awareness program that includes education for all employees to ensure they understand the threats," Wood said.
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