The Super Bowl generates billions of dollars every year in advertising revenue, but is “the big game” really so big that it can impact businesses just by attracting their workers? Two recent surveys suggest it can, and that the impact from the 2020 Super Bowl might be even bigger than most.
First, the bad news. According to a survey commissioned by the Workforce Institute at Kronos, the football championship as a strong, trackable effect on workers: Absenteeism. The 2020 Super Bowl Fever Survey, conducted by the Harris Poll, found that about 17.5 million U.S. employees say they will skip work the Monday after the game.
That’s a third of a million more employees that promised to skip compared to last year, and 4 million more compared to the year before that. While about 11 million of those workers plan on taking the day off through official channels, almost 5 million workers plan on feigning illness.
Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute, says “despite the well-documented spike in workplace absences on the Monday following the Super Bowl, many organizations continue to operate as though it is business as usual that day.”
The most dramatic negative impact for a business comes from no-show employees who don’t tell their bosses they will be taking time off: “When we look at the impact of unplanned absence, you know, a lot of it is overtime, having to call in temporary staff, negative impact on morale of the co-workers who have to pick up the slack,” said Maroney. “Although we have seen a gradual growth in people who say they will ask for the time off in advance, that doesn’t change the fact that we’re still seeing millions of people who say, ‘Yeah, I’m maybe not coming in at all, and I may not even let you know.’”
“The bottom line is that there are real, measurable, negative, economic impacts,” she said.
But, reportedly, the Super Bowl can also be a management asset, not just an obstacle. Jono Bacon, a community strategy consultant and author, claims that the Super Bowl can be a big opportunity to improve employee cohesion and morale. He says celebrating events like the Super Bowl together can improve workplace group dynamics—and, counterintuitively, improve productivity.
“The key to benefiting from group experience like the Superbowl is tapping into relatedness,” wrote Bacon in an email. “This is where we feel safe together in a group and conversely, avoiding people feeling left out.” Over the phone, Bacon elaborated: it's about getting together as a group and feeling togetherness. "Being social and having an opportunity to spend time socially with your colleagues is not just something that's good for your teams, but it's something that people want."
Maroney agreed: culture is key, so managers should pay attention to cultural events. “People have mentioned things like the TV in the break room and special food on game day, that kind of thing.” According to Kronos’ survey, engaged employees are also much more likely to call their managers ahead of time about taking time off.
The football itself is beside the point, according to Bacon. "I think that the Super Bowl is one way to pull people together. It's really not about the game. ... When I moved to America 11 years ago, I had no interest in any sports," he said. "The Super Bowl party was just kind of what you did, and I was reluctant to go before my wife and friends told me it's really often not about the game. It's more about the gathering."