Does the Super Bowl fumble your Monday morning?

33330283_3b0fac2bb7_mThe weekend after next brings the Super Bowl, that annual festival of traditions including overpriced commercials, 7-layer dip and a curious one for we business writers: statistics on how much productivity is “lost” due to the game.

I’ve seen different ones bandied about. Employers lose $820 or $850 million due to game chit chat (both stats are out there). An extra 1.5 million people call in sick the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday, probably because they’re hungover. A time tracking software company recently sent me a statistic that businesses lose $1.1 billion per week due to fantasy football.

It sure sounds like a crisis. But I’ve got some other stats I’ve been brooding about. Have you considered these other sources of lost productivity?

Employees who go to the bathroom. There are about 150 million people in the American workforce. Almost all of them visit the loo during work hours. Sometimes 3 or 4 times! If you estimate 5 minutes of lost productivity per visit, three visits per day is 15 minutes, or  1.25 hours per week. That’s more than 60 hours in a work year, or the equivalent of 1.5 workweeks spent on something that isn’t impacting the right bottom line. If employee time averages about $20/hour, that’s more than $1200/year/employee, or $180 billion in lost productivity to American employers. The solution? Padlock the doors, and watch productivity soar.

Employees who eat. People have been known to take half an hour or more to grab a sandwich or cup of soup in the middle of the work day. Many supplement this with a stop by the kitchen in the morning for a cup of coffee, or by hitting the vending machine in the afternoon for a granola bar. If you figure 45 minutes per average employee, that’s  3.75 hours per week or more than 180 hours lost per year — the equivalent of 4.5 weeks! That’s more than $500 billion in lost productivity per year. Bless those of you eating at your desk and keeping this number down.

Employees who talk about their weekends. Oh, it seems harmless to ask “hey, how did your weekend go?” on Monday morning. But even 5 minutes spent on idle banter about weekends is 5 minutes not spent chasing profit or whatever it is your organization chases. In a 50-week year, that would be 250 minutes, or more than 4 hours lost. That’s $80/employee, or $12 billion in lost productivity to the American economy.

That sure puts the $850 million lost to Super Bowl talk in perspective, right? Or maybe, just maybe, human beings are still human beings at work. There may be a world of peak productivity, but it’s not a world that involves no lunch breaks and no discussion of things that matter to you outside of work. In fact, I think if people want to start hunting for sources of lost productivity, I’d look first at meetings that didn’t have to happen or went on too long, emails that never needed to be sent, and rabbit holes gone down because of unclear communication, personal agendas, and a general desire to cover one’s rear end. I’d put the lost productivity at $1 trillion weekly — but that’s just a guess.

Do you fumble Monday morning after the Super Bowl?

(Laura’s note: Yes, this post is a week early. I figured waiting and trying to remember to write it next week would reduce my own productivity)

Photo courtesy flickr user Elvert Barnes



4 Responses to Does the Super Bowl fumble your Monday morning?


  1. Leanne says:

    Great post! Too bad there isn’t a way to measure the converse, how much a worker’s happiness increases her productivity. I know I’m happier if I take a real lunch break, talk to my friend about our weekends, and not have a painfully full bladder. I would bet that not having those things would make me dislike work much more, and therefore I would not work as hard.

  2. Cloud says:

    I think a lot of people haven’t thought very hard about productivity- and how they themselves behave at work, and what sorts of things help them to be productive!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been mulling this over for a day or two, and something seems a bit off about this piece to me. While I realise it was tongue in cheek and appreciate the point – that any worker will ‘waste’ company time or money in some way – I don’t think the examples are very good ones as there are plenty of companies who discourage or even penalize employees for doing the things you’ve suggested, including taking bathroom and lunch breaks.

    Toilet breaks weren’t a right in the USA until 1998, from what I read. It’s pretty standard in call centres for an employee to have to log out to go to the bathroom – and not get paid for that time – while on factory floors the pressure to stay on task may involve more unpleasant penalties.

    On the subject: http://coreyrobin.com/2012/03/08/lavatory-and-liberty-the-secret-history-of-the-bathroom-break/

  4. Cara Marcano says:

    Having worked at companies in my 20s where you had to ask a guy to go to the bathroom, I can say that it is a bit ridiculous to cite going to the bathroom as wasted company time. But this is the world we live in . 5K tax credits for childcare and if you work for a larger company monitoring of your bathroom breaks. no wonder folks are often stressed. I go to the bathroom and I do not feel it makes me less productive ! : ) commuting to meetings you can do on the phone does make you less productive. no every meeting should not be done on the phone but many can be done on the phone with a 30 minute limit.