The Super Bowl's Hidden Cost: Lost Productivity?

January 22, 2004 ( - Cheering for the New England Patriots or Carolina Panthers to victory at the February 1 Super Bowl is one thing around the TV in the den, but quite another if workers flap their gums about the game while at work.

Assuming football fanatics spend 10 minutes per day jawing about the Pigskin Classic, the event could end up costing employers up to $821 million in lost wages from workers thinking more about first downs and interceptions than their job, a Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. study found.

In the five business days before the Houston Super Bowl and on the Monday following the game — when watercooler chatter is likely to be heaviest – even if workers spend only 10 minutes each of those days talking over the great why-they-won/lost question, employers will lose $821.4 million ($136.9 million times six days).

Every 10 minutes of unproductive work time costs employers an average of $2.59 per worker, according to the outplacement firm Projected over the 130 million workers employed on nonfarm payrolls (as of December 31, 2003), losses for every 10 minutes of wasted time grows to an eye-opening $337 million. Even if the calculation is based only on the estimated 52.8 million working Americans glued to their sets on Super Bowl Sunday, the amount of lost productivity could exceed $136.9 million for every 10 minutes spent on game chit chat.

Challenger researchers calculated the employer loss by dividing the average hourly wage of all workers, $15.52, by six to obtain the average amount of money earned every 10 minutes ($2.59) and then multiplied the $2.59 by 52,870,000 – the estimated number of employed Super Bowl viewers.