Super Bowl Monday: The Myth Of Lost 'Productivity'
This weekend brings the Super Bowl, that annual festival of traditions including overpriced commercials, seven-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 numbers bandied about:
- Employers lose $820 or $850 million due to game chitchat (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. (Using this argument, there is even a petition circulating now to have the White House declare the Monday after a national holiday.)
- 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 three or four times! If you estimate five 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 an hour, that's more than $1,200 per year, per employee, or $180 billion in lost productivity to U.S. 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 workday. 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 five minutes spent on idle banter about weekends is five 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 four hours lost. That's $80 per employee, or $12 billion in lost productivity to the U.S. 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?
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Laura Vanderkam is the author of All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending (Portfolio, 2012), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children, and blogs daily at www.lauravanderkam.com.
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