Watching the Olympics at Work: Being Patriotic and Productive.

If you have an abiding interest in the 2012 Olympics in London, you’re not alone. Over 4 billion people are expected to tune in to the opening ceremony on July 27th. Of course, the real excitement is what follows: days packed with the high drama of international athletic competition. It’s too bad you’re going to miss most of them by being at work.

Or are you?

Streaming coverage makes workplace viewing possible, but doing so is more complicated than just tuning in and minimizing it when your boss walks by. With a little foresight and a lot of self-discipline, you can watch your favorite events from your desk without disrupting your productivity. Take these tips to heart and you can watch the pole vault until your heart’s content.

Don’t be sneaky.

Be sure to clear any Olympics viewing with your supervisor. Unless watching online entertainment is an acceptable practice in your office, you don’t want to be caught streaming the Women’s Shot Put Semis when you should be finalizing that budget.

Be mindful of bandwidth.

Streaming online content tends to eat up substantial bandwidth, so check with your friendly neighborhood Helpdesk folks and find out if your office’s infrastructure can support a lot of streaming without causing outages on your network. After all, you don’t want to interfere with productivity.

Be aware of the example you’re setting.

If you have direct reports, it’s likely they’ll notice that you’re following your favorite event. Invite them to do the same, but set a firm policy regarding time and productivity. A simple email will do the trick, but don’t give the impression that you’re taking a lax attitude to watching TV while working. What begins with the Olympics may end with The Jersey Shore.

Don’t be a distraction.

If you’re watching at work, remind yourself that you’re neither at the bar nor at home. Pounding your desk and shouting, “There’s no way that was a foul!” or high-fiving officemates to get them pumped for Mixed Dressage is inappropriate, distracting, and downright rude. This doesn’t mean you can’t be excited. Just be excited quietly.

Consider using the Olympics as a reward for great performance.

This is another pointer for those of you with direct reports. If there’s a TV in your kitchen or a conference room, consider offering unfettered Olympics access for a specific time period as a reward for exemplary work.

Since the Summer Olympics only come around every four years, many employers are willing to treat them as a bit of a special occasion and are willing to make allowances for workplace viewership. Know your company’s policies and don’t abuse the privilege. That way, you can keep up with your favorite events while keeping your boss and peers in awe of your own gold-medal performance.