Quick Contact
Call Us: (713) 622-3443

Hoopla making it hard to focus on work

Some employers joining in, others will try to beat 'em

Hoopla making it hard to focus on work
  • January 29, 2004

With all the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl, it's getting hard to stay focused on work.

The parties. The celebrities. The traffic.

What spreadsheet? What merger? Where's that aspirin bottle?

Houstonians are so involved with the big game that it's showing up at work — and it's not just in the hangovers.

"Our folks are definitely stargazing," said Mark Hanson, director of administration for Vinson & Elkins in Houston, whose employees are hoping to catch glimpses of the actors, singers and big-name sportscasters, not to mention football players. "And I shouldn't say this, but it's top to bottom."

Fortunately for some of the firm's employees, several of the sports shows have set up outdoor studios next to the Four Seasons Hotel, making it easier for them to work in rounds of celebrity sightings with their happy hours.

Some employees said they are hoping to rub shoulders with National Football League greats such as former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, as well as some of "the cute ones" like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Texans quarterback David Carr, Hanson said.

Hanson hopes he'll run into Barry Alvarez, the coach of his alma mater's University of Wisconsin Badgers football team.

Tony Pannagl figures he can either fight it or join it, and he's clearly doing the latter.

Pannagl, managing partner of IS&T, an information technology consulting firm in Houston, expects his employees to come in late and leave early to get to parties or beat the traffic. And they may be a little "cloudy" when they show up back at the office.

"Employers need to think about the boost to the economy and the city — it's the biggest event ever — and within reason, understand their employees will be excited about the Super Bowl," he said.

Besides, he said, he'll be bugging out early himself to get to some of the parties, including the Playboy shindig Saturday night with his wife.

"As a business owner, you can only expect to get from your employees what you also do," he said. So he is just planning to stress any key deadlines and be lenient on the others.

"This is going to be like Mardi Gras," Pannagl said.

Is this healthy?

According to Jennifer George, Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of Management and a professor of psychology at Rice University, it's a great diversion to be distracted like this.

"Lots of people have pressure and stress in their jobs," she said, and it's nice that employers recognize how important and exciting it is.

That's what Betty Bellomy was thinking last week when an administrative employee asked for most of the week off to work as a production assistant for Nickelodeon's Nick Takes Over the Super Bowl.

Bellomy, office manager for Haynes & Boone in Houston, said the law firm had to juggle a few schedules because of the short notice but added that she could hardly say no.

"This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things," she said. "I wanted to make sure the office is flexible enough to allow people to pursue their passions. It's about supporting good people."

Reuben Guerra said he was thrilled when he heard from Nickelodeon and appreciated how Haynes & Boone accommodated his time-off request. In addition to his clerking job at the law firm, Guerra is on the production crew of G Films in Houston, and jobs come up quickly.

He got time off to work when American Idol came to town for auditions to link up producers with the performers and has set up the lights and other equipment for Houston Rockets commercials along with several music videos in Houston. It's a couple of days a month, he said, and co-workers fill in for him.

Traffic tie-ups are part of any big sporting event, and Carla Hallmark, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Mach 5 Couriers, was warning her customers last week that service could be slow.

It will be harder for the company's 35 couriers who drive cars to find parking spaces, she said. It will also take longer for those drivers, along with the company's 12 bike messengers, to clear security that has been recently beefed up.

It may take two to four hours to deliver a package that normally would take just an hour, said Hallmark.

But customers, who are excited about the Super Bowl, have responded well, she said: "It's just one week out of our lives. We'll get over it."

Besides, she added, what's one more hurdle?

"Our streets are torn up downtown anyway," she said.

Not everyone is using the Super Bowl as a giant party excuse, though.

Dan Parsons, president of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Houston, said he intentionally chose Super Bowl weekend as the time for his organization to move its offices.

Parsons has set up a grueling schedule — packing all week so the moving trucks can take off at 3 p.m. Friday for the new West Loop office. Employees will return early Saturday to begin setting up their new offices.

"We wanted to force them to get in gear," said Parsons, who hopes the move will keep everyone's mind off the hoopla. "I think it's a management tool."

Besides, after the game, it will be time for the BBB to handle the post-Super Bowl scams — hangover or no hangover.

"They better be here Monday morning at 8 a.m. sharp, ready to work," Parsons said of his staff.