With the NBA and NHL gearing up for their championship series, a new poll shows employers should be readying for an influx of "sports flu" going around the office.

A survey by The Workforce Institute at Kronos, Inc. discovered a significant number of employees worldwide admit to calling in sick to work because of a sporting event.

In the United States, 11 percent of the workers surveyed phoned in sick because of sports — from staying home to watch a game on television, attending an event live, playing a sport themselves or needing a day off after staying up late to watch a matchup.

Yet, U.S. employees' sports enthusiasm paled in comparison to their peers' around the world. Nearly 60 percent of Chinese workers have missed work because of a sporting event, the survey found, and India, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia and Canada also had higher instances than the U.S.

France was the only country surveyed with fewer workers, just 1 percent, calling in sick because of a sporting event.

[What Workers Really Do on Sick Days]

The research found that football was the most likely sport to keep American employees out of the office, while soccer took the top spot in Australia, France, Mexico and the U.K.

"This survey indicates that sporting events of all kinds can be a trigger for unscheduled absences," said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute. "Managers would do well to speak with employees when they know there is a big sporting event coming up to try to determine who is likely to be out."

Despite their willingness to miss work, the majority of those surveyed said they felt guilty about doing so. In the U.S., nearly 65 percent of those who have called in sick for a sporting event felt at least somewhat guilty because of it.

Employees in every country surveyed said the best way to prevent such absences is to offer flexible work hours. Allowing employees to take unpaid leave and establishing a benefit like summer Fridays (leaving work early) were other popular suggestions.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.

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