How prepared is your workplace for the week after Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl match between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots on Sunday marked huge excitement among millions of Americans as they tuned in to watch from every corner of the country. As usual, both fans and nonfans, including individuals with no love for sports recognize this day as a fun-filled one. The merriment goes with eating too much food, drinking lots of alcohol, and staying up very late for late-night commercials. This extensive feast records a downside yearly – employers lose billions of dollars on the week following big games due to poor productivity.

Over 17 million employees have been estimated to stay away from work the Monday following Super Bowl LII, according to The Harris Poll’s survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated. Having followed this phenomenon since 2005, the report found that February 4, would be the largest-ever anticipated day of Super Bowl-related absenteeism. That doesn’t account for the hours spent by workers discussing the game.

The survey dubbed “Super Bowl Fever survey” carried out early January involved 1,107 US adults aged 18 and older. The team used the most recent US workforce data to extrapolate the population estimates to find that some 17.2 million workers could call in sick even if they are not or give reasons why they won’t be at work on February 4.

Additional insights from the report found that 8 million employees said they would take a pre-approved day off while 4.7 million reported they would go for a last-minute sick day regardless of their health conditions. On that Monday, about 22 million workers would go to work late, 12.5 million would work from home, while 9.4 million were yet to make a decision about their work plans on Monday after Super Bowl.

How are bosses responding to the week after Super Bowl? The fever was found to be even more amongst managers than frontline workers, perhaps because they could take advantage of their flexibility. The report found that 20% of the frontline employees would likely call in sick or take the day off against 36% that would do the same among bosses.

About 33% of American workers believe the Monday following Super Bowl should be a national holiday. This is as a result of how they feel about work on Super Bowl Mondays. 40% of the employees between the age of 18 and 34 said they have anxiety about going to work on Super Bowl Mondays than any other day in the year.

Employers are reacting differently to this phenomenon. According to the vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Andrew Challenger, employers should let workers rehash the game at work by hosting a Super Bowl Monday party. Employers who can afford should consider allowing workers to report late on the Monday following Super Bowl, he added.

In 2017, Kraft Heinz Company, which gave its employees a day off on the Monday after the Super Bowl, made a public move and started a petition that would make that Monday a national holiday. Referring to it as the “Super Sick Monday,” the petition failed to progress due to lack of signatures.

Super Bowl related-absenteeism and other productivity-denting attitudes would cost employees $4 billion this year, according to estimates by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Employers could overturn some losses planning ahead for absenteeism, re-educating and properly engaging their employees.

Joyce Maroney, Director of The Workforce Institute of Kronos Incorporated, discusses why workplaces need to take an unconventional approach to productivity loss during the week after Super Bowl.

Joyce Maroney, Executive Director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated

The HR Digest: According to The Workforce Institute’s report, an estimated 17.2M U.S. workers may miss work the day after Super Bowl LIII - making Monday, Feb. 4 the largest-ever anticipated day of Super Bowl-related absenteeism since it began tracking this phenomenon in 2005. How can employers approach the costly affair of absenteeism?

Joyce Maroney: The surge in absences on Feb. 4 can have a number of different consequences for any workforce. From a tactical perspective, the last minute surge of sick calls can leave employers scrambling for adequate coverage. While being short staffed for just a day may not seem like a big deal, it can create serious challenges in an environment like a healthcare facility where lacking enough people with appropriate skills/certifications can present a patient safety and compliance liability. Filling empty shifts at the last minute can drive excessive and unplanned overtime expenses for the employer. It can also be demoralizing to an employee who does show up to work and is left feeling like they have to pick up the slack.

On a more strategic level, having more employees than usual miss work on Monday may be a sign of a larger organization problem. Open lines of communication between managers and employees are vital to a high performing workforce. If employees didn’t feel comfortable asking managers to take the day off, change their schedule, or try to make alternative work arrangements so they could enjoy the game and rest up the next morning, that could be a sign the organization has more work to do. Conversely, if employees did try to take the day off or make alternative work arrangements but were not allowed, then that is where the organization, led by HR, should review whether their policies and proceeds are really designed to offer an engaging work experience.

The Super Bowl is just one day, but because of the surge in absences related to the game it creates a flashpoint that exposes whether an organization’s policies and procedures around scheduling and time-off are actually working. Employees should be able to have open and honest conversations with their manager ahead of time so to negotiate the time off they need – for whatever reason. Organizations should regularly review, refine and communicate their time off policies. Contemporary workforce management solutions can allow employees to request and receive time-off in real time and easily swap shifts with little or no manager intervention. The predictive analytics capabilities of these kinds of tools can advise managers on how productivity during a day or week may shape up if extra employees are able to take time off.

The HR Digest: An estimated 4.7 million will take a last-minute sick day even though they are not actually sick. How can HR managers deal with the so-called mavericks and the associated productivity slump?

Joyce Maroney: To borrow a popular sports adage, the best defense is a good offense. Whether it is the Super Bowl or other big sports-related or cultural events, there are strategies organizations can deploy throughout the year to minimize absences. Organizations should ensure that managers and employees have open, honest lines of communication. This will ensure employees feel comfortable expressing their interest in taking the day off ahead of time so managers can create an appropriate schedule. Technology can also play an important role by empowering employees to quickly and easily ask for specific days off ahead of time, or if they are scheduled to work, to quickly swap shifts. There will always be instances where people who’d like to be off have to work – especially in industries that have minimum staffing requirements, like the nursing staff in a hospital or public safety officers. For those businesses, there are opportunities to show appreciation to those who do have to work. A simple gesture like treating everyone to a continental breakfast on Monday morning can go a long way to acknowledge their dedication.

There are also more creative solutions an organization could consider. For office workers, is it possible to encourage more employees than usual to work from home that day? At a manufacturing plant, is it possible to adjust the production schedule so that there can be a smaller crew or smaller output on Monday so everyone who wants to take the day off can?

Some people might read that and think “but what about all that lost productivity?” Showing employees that you care about them, trust them, and want to empower them to more easily negotiate their demands of their work with their personal interests will provide far more long-term gain through higher engagement, lower turnover, and better productivity the other 364 days out of the year. Cultural events, whether it is the Super Bowl, World Cup, Olympics, Oscars, and so forth, are the perfect opportunity to do this.

The HR Digest: We have organizations recognize the importance of giving employees the day off on ‘Smunday’ – but then fail to give it a try. If you had to make the case for the value of a National Holiday on Super Bowl Monday as succinctly as possible, how would you frame it?

Joyce Maroney: I wouldn’t make that case. I would recommend that organizations have flexibility and PTO policies that enable employees to take the time off that they need to balance their work and personal lives throughout the year.

The HR Digest: What do you think prevents employers from taking advantage of engagement-boosting activities related to major American events?

Joyce Maroney: I suspect employers worry about lost productivity and/or suspect that these types of small gestures at work don’t matter to employees. Employees know the work needs to get done. Treat them like responsible adults and maintain 2-way communications channels with employees about what benefits and rewards matter most to them. When it comes to acknowledging an event like the Super Bowl, employers might be surprised by how much a chili cook off or the like at work will boost employee morale.

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