Commentary

Joy In Mudville

Cleveland’s celebration of LeBron James’ return to the Cavaliers is extending beyond the weekend and into the workweek. 

Much has been said about the purely quantitative benefit to local businesses as more people head downtown to attend games. But, are the area’s employers — including mine — also seeing some intangible benefits? Does the “fan swagger” associated with a big win for a local team carry over into the workplace?

We just did an internal employee survey that at least suggests there’s a “swagger factor” that does leave a positive qualitative mark on a company’s work environment.

An obvious economic return

LeBron’s return expects to translate into significant, direct, positive economic impact for Cleveland and northeast Ohio. During a press conference on Monday, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald estimated LeBron will pump an extra $500 million a year and add 500 new jobs into the region’s economy.

Clearly, more people coming to the team’s 41 regular-season home games means a boost for local businesses, particularly restaurants and bars in the Gateway neighborhood surrounding the Cavaliers’ home, Quicken Loans Arena. A contending home team also promises to translate into greater flow of traffic into northeast Ohio from rival NBA cities—a boon for the city’s overall tourism efforts.

A deeper, more intangible benefit

But, is there a deeper, perhaps harder-to-measure, intangible benefit to the region’s workforce and economy? Are employees who walk with swagger the days after their team scores a big win accomplishing more than those moping around the office, chin-to-chest, after witnessing a crushing loss?

Our survey of 1,073 employees suggested that’s indeed the case. In the survey, 89% of respondents said sports-related events foster teamwork; 78% said they foster creativity; while 65% said they foster greater productivity. 

These are all success factors for a company like ours. We’re one of the area’s leading employers and we take a lot of pride in our history of innovation. 

The changing face of workplace creativity

Wherever I’ve been in my own career, I’ve seen it: Occasional creative distractions, outlets and opportunities for “release” are so important for people who need to think conceptually and creatively. 

They need much more than just the cliché office foosball or Ping-Pong table. Sports bring something deep: a shared ethos, a sense of camaraderie, a “been-through-hell-and-back” bond that pulls people together. 

Of course, following a team with your coworkers is also simply fun. Our survey also found that 94% of respondents think sports-related events make for a fun day at work, while 90% believe they help relieve workday stress.

Where there’s hope, there’s fire

There’s just no doubt in my mind that morale spikes after something like the LeBron announcement. You can feel the buzz — the electricity — the hope. 

Where there’s hope, there’s fire. And, I think good leaders know how to build on that fire. I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to conclude that properly channeled swagger can translate into a real benefit to the bottom line.

It’s all the more reason for Cleveland to celebrate the “Return of the King.”

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