March 21, 2008 in Business

Employees afflicted with basketball fever balance work, play

By The Spokesman-Review
 

It’s business as usual in bracketville.

Despite the Spokane area’s passion for Gonzaga and Washington State basketball teams, companies have made little formal accommodation for employees who cannot sit still for wondering whether Jeremy Pargo is driving the lane or Robbie Cowgill blocking a shot.

Where there are televisions, managers expect they will be tuned to March Madness. An extra-long walk to the restroom probably will not result in a technical foul. More than that, and consulting a supervisor will be appropriate before coming off the bench.

Take Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, for example.

Spokeswoman Susan Fagan said the labs, perched one hill away from WSU’s Pullman campus, did not make TV available to its 1,100 employees. But half that number work in manufacturing, she noted, and a 2:30 p.m. shift change gave many plenty of time to find the nearest plasma screen.

Others could take personal time if they were unable to contain their inner Coug, she said.

Fagan, whose day ends at 5 p.m., said, “I’m going to race home and watch as much as I can.”

At Avista Utilities, spokeswoman Jessie Wuerst said she will be telecommuting today.

“I will be working, but I might have the TV on, too,” the Gonzaga fan said. The Zags play this morning at 9:25.

Wuerst said Avista will put the GU game on a big screen in the company auditorium. Employees will be able to watch there, with a donation to Project Share requested.

Many were expected to leave work before the start of the WSU game, she said.

Greater Spokane Inc. is making both games available in its street-level conference room, President Rich Hadley said.

Because the business development group expects its employees to be available on weekends and during off-hours, he said, time spent watching a basketball game will not be considered time lost.

Hadley dismissed studies that suggest employee productivity slips as much as 20 percent during ballgames. Even if that’s true, he said, enthusiastic workers more than make up for it.

“It brings out a lot of pride,” Hadley said.

Empire Airlines President Tim Komberec said employees have “Sweet 16 fever,” but there are no TVs around to watch. He asked those who have computers not to stream games over the Internet for fear of tying up the company server.

He did wonder aloud about potential absenteeism this morning.

Mareesa Henderson, spokeswoman for West Corp. in Spokane, said employees at its two call centers will not be able to watch from their workstations, but TVs are available in break areas. Managers at the former Dakotah Direct operations try to be as flexible as possible in scheduling their 1,300 employees, she said.

Geiger Corrections Center is all about accommodation. But game viewing is restricted to the day rooms, said Capt. John McGrath. And officers determine what’s on the TV.

Good behavior, and the game’s on.

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