World Cup fever infiltrates the workplace
FARMINGTON, Conn. – Lunch break lasted longer than usual at Trumpf Inc. on Thursday.
With World Cup hopes on the line, the American and German soccer teams squared off in Brazil, and Trumpf employees weren't going to let work get in the way of watching. The Germany-based company sanctioned a viewing party in an on-campus auditorium, where about 60 employees watched intently from noon to 2 p.m.
The game took on special meaning for Trumpf employees, many of whom are German-born. After four days of friendly banter among Germans and American co-workers, the sides happily watched together, on company time.
"There's a Germany flag and a USA flag and a Germany jersey and a USA jersey side by side," Trumpf spokesperson Susan Grohs said shortly after the game. "The World Cup only happens every four years. It's a great opportunity to sit together and watch the soccer."
Grohs said she watched some of the game among the crowd but was in her second-floor office when she felt the building shake beneath her. Germany had scored.
For the past two weeks, the World Cup has captivated audiences across America, with the United States' June 22 draw against Portugal attracting more than 18 million viewers on ESPN and an additional 6.5 million on Univision.
But while that game's Sunday evening start time made for easy viewership, Thursday's midday match posed a dilemma for soccer-loving employees everywhere: call in sick, watch discreetly, or miss the match altogether. Or, in workplaces like Trumpf's, watch openly, with the boss's blessing.
On Wednesday evening, U.S. Soccer tweeted an open letter to employers nationwide from coach Juergen Klinsmann, excusing all Americans from work to watch Thursday's game: "I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause."
At Glastonbury, Conn., advertising agency Cronin and Co., World Cup spirit flew unrestrained. Rather than force employees to miss the match or go elsewhere to see it, Cronin and Co. ordered 10 pizzas and set up a screen in a conference room.
"We have a lot of soccer fans here," principal and chief creative officer Steve Wolfberg said. "We figure everyone is going to sneak out to watch it or use up the wireless to stream it and slow everything down anyway."
At these businesses, such permissiveness is not a one-time deal. Wolfberg said Cronin and Co. has made similar accommodations for past sporting events. Trumpf has held similar gatherings for previous World Cup games, organizing them through fliers on walls and messages on the company's internal website, Grohs said.
"We're very fortunate that the company said, 'I understand that you want to watch it,' " said Trumpf software manager Steffen Kutz, who supports the U.S. and his native Germany but rooted for the latter Thursday. "We tried to come a little bit early. That didn't work for me today, so I have to stay a little bit longer."
The afternoon's end result left everyone at Trumpf satisfied. Though Germany prevailed over the U.S. 1-0, both sides will advance to the knockout stages, thanks to Portugal's 2-1 victory over Ghana.
"It is great," Kutz said. "I'm going watch both teams, and I want to have a replay in the (World Cup) final."
With the U.S. advancing, companies will again be forced to decide if patriotism and camaraderie are worth two hours of slowed – or stalled – operations. Wolfberg said after the game he doesn't regret watching during work hours.
"It was a great afternoon," he said. "Nice little diversion, the U.S. moves on, and now we can get back and serve our clients."
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