The 2016 Summer Games are expected to break the 2012 London Olympics ratings record as the most-watched event in U.S. television history1 - and, according to a survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and conducted online by Harris Poll2, more than 55 million employed Americans3 may tune in during work hours.

The "Torching Productivity: 2016 Olympics vs. Work" survey was conducted July 21-25, 2016 among 911 full- and part-time employed U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, to explore the potential effects that the 2016 Summer Games could have on productivity and absenteeism at work.

Survey News Facts

  • More than an estimated 55 million employed Americans (37 percent) would watch an Olympic event live if it aired during work2. And of the 73 percent of employed Americans who plan to watch at least some of the 2016 Summer Games, half say they would consider watching an event live even if it took place during their work hours:
    • Nearly one in five (17 percent) would make up an excuse to leave work early, come in late, or play hooky altogether and call in sick.
    • One-third (33 percent) would stream the event live while working.
    • More than a quarter (28 percent) would try to change their shift or work hours.
    • Only 18 percent said they would take a pre-approved vacation or personal day.
  • Basketball, Gymnastics, and Swimming compete for most likely to decrease productivity, increase absenteeism. Employed Americans who admit that they plan to watch the 2016 Summer Games during working hours showed a wide range of sporting interest when asked which of the 28 core events they would most likely watch live (full list available upon request):
    • Basketball won gold as the most popular event worth missing work for, as nearly half (47 percent) may opt for watching hoops over working.
    • Gymnastics (40 percent), Swimming (37 percent), Track & Field (33 percent), and Boxing (24 percent) rounded out the top five events employees would most likely attempt to watch live.
    • Employers may see the highest attendance - and attention - rates at work when Handball (6 percent), Field Hockey (4 percent), and Badminton (4 percent) are scheduled, as much fewer U.S. employed adults are likely to watch these events live.
    • TV still the champ: When asked to state the different ways they plan to watch the 2016 Olympics, the majority of employed U.S. adults who plan to watch any of the Summer Games will do so via live TV (85 percent), while 27 percent may record events and watch later on their DVR. Only 17 percent say they might stream events on a computer, and 13 percent may stream on a smart phone or tablet.
  • Watching at work: a marathon or sprint? More than three-quarters (77 percent)  of employed Americans who plan to watch any of the Summer Games believe it is appropriate for an employee to take time out of the workday to check in on the Olympics - but how much time will be wasted?
    • More than half (56 percent) of employed Americans who plan to watch any of the Summer Games feel it is appropriate for an employee to spend up to 30 minutes of their workday watching, following, or reading about the Olympics.
    • Nearly 1 in 5 employees who plan to watch any of the Summer Games (18%) feel it's okay for an employee to spend more than 45 minutes of their workday keeping tabs on events or athletes.
    • Good news for employers: Only eight percent of employed U.S. adults who plan to watch any of the Summer Games say it is appropriate for an employee to watch more than an hour of Olympics coverage during the workday.
  • Could the Olympics build team camaraderie in the workplace? While productivity may slow during the Olympics, few employers embrace the opportunity to leverage major sports events to build camaraderie and employee appreciation while managing productivity and absenteeism.
    • Three out of five employed Americans (60 percent) do not believe their employer would support employees watching Olympic events while at work, and 63 percent say their company's culture does not allow the flexibility to watch major sporting events such as the Olympics during work hours.
    • Of those employed U.S. adults who will not watch the 2016 Olympics live during work, 44 percent say it is because it is not possible to do so at their workplace, 37 percent say their workload will not allow for it, and 35 percent fear they will get in trouble with their employer.
    • Yet employees continue to overcome work hurdles to keep track of their favorite sports while on the job, as nearly one-third of employed Americans (31 percent) have watched a major sporting event during work hours even if their employer did not encourage it.
    • There are a few progressive organizations that capitalize on employee passion for competition to build camaraderie, as 25 percent of employed Americans say their current employer has encouraged watching major sporting events at work, such as the Summer Olympics (11 percent).

Supporting Quotes

  • Joyce Maroney, director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    "There are very few events that capture the world's attention like the Summer Olympics - and even fewer that air during typical working hours. 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. 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. Set up a viewing party in the breakroom. 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."

Supporting Resources

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated from July 21-25, 2016 among 2,010 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 911 are employed full- or part-time. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact [email protected].

About The Workforce Institute at Kronos

The Workforce Institute provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforce effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute's research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organizations. For additional information, visit

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is the global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. Tens of thousands of organizations in more than 100 countries - including more than half of the Fortune 1000® - use Kronos to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity. Learn more about Kronos industry-specific time and attendance, scheduling, absence management, HR and payroll, hiring, and labor analytics applications at Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works™.

About Harris Poll

Over the last five decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers' motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Contact us for more information.


© 2016 Kronos Incorporated (no claim made as to The Harris Poll survey). All rights reserved. Kronos and the Kronos logo are registered trademarks and Workforce Innovation That Works is a trademark of Kronos Incorporated or a related company. See a complete list of Kronos trademarks. All other trademarks, if any, are property of their respective owners.

Footnote 1: According to The Nielsen Company and NBC Universal on August 14, 2012, the London Olympics on NBC was the most-watched television event in U.S. history with 217 million viewers. See press release.

Footnote 2: This survey was conducted online by Harris Poll in July 2016 among 2,010 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, of whom 911 are employed either full-time or part-time. Throughout this press release, "employees" and/or "employed Americans" will be used to represent full- and part-time workers weighted to the online U.S. population.

Footnote 3: Calculation based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report from June 2016 that estimates there are 151.097 million employed people 16 and older in the U.S. (page 4), with 1.839 million employed people 16 to 17 years old (page 20): 151.097 - 1.839 = 149.3 million employed adults ages 18 and older in the U.S. This number was then multiplied by the percentage of people who said they would attempt to watch an Olympic event live during working hours (37 percent): 149.3M * .37= 55.241 million Americans.