Watching the big game behind the boss's back isn't as sneaky fun as it used to be.
As Thursday's World Cup contest between the United States and Germany -- with a 9 a.m. start just as the workday gets going -- approached with rare hype for American soccer, many Bay Area workers and their companies have de-escalated the age-old conflicts over lost wages and productivity. They're bringing the games into the workplace, using cell phones, tablets and laptops to multitask or make up for lost time.
"I've seen every game in the tournament so far," confessed Abbas Mohammad, an information technician who was shopping for a USA jersey at a Sports Authority store in Sunnyvale. "My productivity has gone down significantly."
An admission like that might have gotten him fired a generation ago. But that was when the concepts of "flex time" and "working by remote" were fantasies for most workers.
"Employees will simply make up that time somewhere else," said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an executive placement and coaching firm. "Today's ultra-portable and always-on technology allows people to work from anywhere at any time."
Mohammad added, "My boss is aware that I'm watching the games but I'm able to shift my work hours and catch up later. The World Cup is only every four years. What are you going to do?"
Among the big boys of Silicon Valley, Google has taken this a step further and figured out how to keep its employees on the job, fed, productive and soccer satisfied at the same time. The global Internet giant has been streaming every World Cup game to its cafeterias around the world, where many of its 46,000 employees eat and drink better-than-average cafeteria food free or at deep discounts.
"We don't think it's affecting productivity at all," Google spokeswoman Meghan Casserly said. "It has been business as usual with an extra, exciting twist."
Cafeteria worker Alonso Salazar said he doesn't have the luxury of flex time. He can't serve breakfast at noon or dinner at midnight. Well, he could do that in late-dining Spain, but the Spanish team was bounced early from the tournament and could be sailing back to Europe on a slow galleon with the equally humiliated English and Italian teams.
Anyway, Salazar said he's going to watch the USA-Germany game on his cell phone as he dishes out breakfast to employees at his high-tech company. The owner, he said, removed the televisions a long time ago for a reason he never learned.
"It doesn't matter now," he said in Spanish. "I have an app on my phone that lets me watch the games anywhere. It doesn't interfere with my work."
Still, it's likely that many other Bay Area employees will play hooky, call in sick, punch in late or multitask on the job. And some who show up will probably work on half of their computer screens and watch the game on the other side.
What can the boss do about all that? Probably nothing, said Challenger.
"Employers may simply want to prepare for the fact that many workers could be taking an extended lunch on Thursday," he said in a statement this week.
His company's number-crunchers estimate that Thursday's game could cost U.S. employers about $390 million in lost wages. But Challenger is looking on the bright side.
In the macroeconomic picture, he said, a lot of soccer fans Thursday will head to taverns or restaurants for the game, giving a boost to local economies and countering any reduction in productivity.
That seems to be happening here at Bay Area bars popular with the soccer crowd.
"Some people are here watching the games with their laptops and multi-tasking a little bit," manager Freddie Francis said at The New Parkway Theater in Oakland. "We have high-speed Wi-Fi in the theater, and we got it especially for the World Cup games so they can take work or projects here."
Over in Walnut Creek, the match times in host Brazil have been good for business at The Stadium Pub, the city's oldest sports bar. It has 47 TV screens.
"For USA games it's just been a madhouse," co-owner Patty Sherman said. "I would guess people are not sneaking out of work. I'm guessing people have been taking days off because this only happens once every four years."
She said the soccer tournament has given her bar a boost during the doldrums of the long baseball season and after basketball and hockey ended. Football is still months away.
The viewing should feature a friendly rivalry at German software company SAP's Palo Alto office. American and German employees are expected to show up in their team's jerseys and watch the game in the cafeteria.
"We think the managers will sit down and watch the game, too," company spokesman Evan Welsh said. SAP has about 67,000 employees worldwide. "We have a very talented and dedicated workforce that will make up that time."
Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767. Follow him at Twitter.com/joerodmercury. Bay Area News Group staff writers Matthias Gafni and Samantha Clark contributed to this report.