Tuesday, February 2, 2021, London, U.K.

16.1 million U.S. employees may be sidelined by Monday’s Super Bowl hangover

As millions plan to attend watch parties, COVID-19 could change skiving forever

An estimated 16.1 million1 U.S. employees may miss work the Monday after Super Bowl LV, according to the annual Super Bowl absenteeism survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 1,000 employed U.S. adults. However, more than two-thirds of U.S. employees (69%) say they would feel guilty pretending to be sick to get out of work on the day after the Super Bowl this year when so many people are actually sick.

Additionally, while COVID-19 continues to colour nearly every facet of work and life, more than 1 out of every 10 U.S. employees (11%)—which could equate to more than 15 million2 employed adults—say they plan to watch The Big Game at a watch party with no COVID-19 precautions (e.g., social distancing, attendance limits, masks). While alarming, it’s a vital reminder for businesses to have the strongest possible game plan to prevent workplace transmissions long after the final whistle.

Despite widespread remote work3, near-record Super Bowl-related absenteeism is expected. While it’s becoming more common for employees to take the Monday after The Big Game off ahead of time, more employees are also “ghosting” their employer. What will absence trends look like this Super Monday?

  • An estimated 16.1 million U.S. employees1 say they plan to miss work on the Monday following Super Bowl LV. The good news? An estimated 8.8 million employees4 will take a pre-approved personal day/PTO this year.
    • Still, an estimated 4.4 million employees5 admit they’re planning to call in sick to work even though they aren’t actually sick.
    • The trend of “ghosting”—where employees don’t show up for work and don’t tell anyone they won’t be working—continues to grow: An estimated 2.9 million employees6 say they’ll “ghost” work this year, nearly doubling last year’s number of 1.5 million7
    • While an estimated 10.2 million employees8 say they plan to start work later than normal on Super Monday this year, another estimated 10.2 million9 will wait until the last minute—either Sunday night or Monday morning—to decide. This means the total number of absences could be even higher than anticipated.
  • Employees with remote work arrangements may take advantage of being out of sight: A third of employees (33%) who work remotely at least some of the time say they’ll slack off the day after the Super Bowl because their employer won’t know.

More than two-thirds of U.S. employees (69%) say they’re worried about Super Bowl-related gatherings turning into “super spreader events.” Their concern appears warranted.

  • More than half of employees (54%) say they know at least one person who is planning to host or attend a Super Bowl watch party this year.
    • More than 1 in 10 employees (11%) plan to watch Super Bowl LV at a party either in their home or someone else’s home with no COVID-19 precautions (e.g., social distancing, attendance limits, masks).
    • By contrast, slightly more than half as many (6%) plan to watch the game at a watch party with many COVID-19 precautions (e.g., outside, social distancing, attendance limits, masks).
    • Overall, slightly over half of employees (51%) plan to watch the game at home only with the people they reside with.
  • Among employees reporting to a physical workplace at least some of the time, nearly 3 in 5 (57%) say they’re worried about working the days following the Super Bowl because people they work with/around may have been exposed to COVID-19 by attending a watch party.

COVID-19 may change the face of skiving in the future—but employees continue to hold out hope the Super Bowl will one day become a national holiday.

  • In a sign of empathy, a majority of U.S. employees (69%) say they would feel guilty pretending to be sick to take the day off after the Super Bowl this year when so many people are actually sick.
  • More than half of employees (53%) also admit they would be afraid to call out sick the day after the Super Bowl this year because their employer may require a doctor’s note or negative COVID-19 test before allowing them to return to work.
  • Overall, about half of employees (51%) say their employer is proactively planning for the absenteeism that can happen on the Monday after the Super Bowl, down slightly from 56% last year7.
    • One cure for the annual Super Bowl hangover that sweeps through workplaces? Nearly two-thirds of employees (64%) believe the NFL should move the Super Bowl to the Sunday night before Presidents Day in mid-February, ensuring the day after the game would fall on a national holiday when many U.S. businesses close.
    • Overall, 39% of employees believe the day after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday.

Supporting quotes

  • Chris Mullen, Ph.D., executive director, The Workforce Institute at UKG
    “Employees are anxious, stressed out, and flat-out exhausted. It’s no surprise they’re going to latch onto the Super Bowl to provide themselves with some sense of normalcy, even if it’s just an excuse to take a day off. Businesses should use this week heading into the Super Bowl to communicate openly and honestly with employees about their gameday plans to ensure that risky behaviour off the clock will not put coworkers, customers, and their communities at risk when they’re back on the clock. The challenge will be doing so in a way that does not stifle employee engagement. Otherwise, one day of minor disruption in the form of elevated absenteeism may turn into weeks of trouble.”
  • Sharlyn Lauby, SHRM-SCP, advisory board member, The Workforce Institute at UKG; president, ITM Group; blogger, HRBartender.com
    “Despite the pandemic, the Super Bowl can still be an event that businesses rally their employees around. Instead of looking for creative opportunities to lure folks to work on Monday morning, they should be transparent about emphasising and enhancing their safety protocols. Remember, most employees planning to watch the game will do so safely. Ensure people managers address individual concerns. While difficult, go above and beyond baseline standards—such as further limiting the number of customers in a store. Your employees will remember these actions long after the pandemic finally ends.”

Supporting resources

  • Note to editors: Please refer to this as “The 2021 Super Bowl Absence Survey by The Workforce Institute at UKG and The Harris Poll.”
  • For historic reference, the top year for estimated workplace absence after the Super Bowl was 20207 (17.5 million). Overall, a third of all employees (33%) say they have not gone to work or have gone into work late the day after the Super Bowl.
  • Subscribe to The Workforce Institute at UKG and follow the think tank on Twitter for insight, research, blogs, and podcasts on how organisations can manage today’s modern workforce to drive engagement and performance.
  • UKG CEO Aron Ain shares how to transform employee engagement into a growth strategy in his book, “WorkInspired: How to Build an Organization Where Everyone Loves to Work.”
  • Follow UKG on FacebookInstagramLinkedInTwitter, and YouTube.

About The Workforce Institute at UKG

The Workforce Institute at UKG provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organisations worldwide. By bringing together a global consortium of HR and workforce management thought leaders, the think tank is uniquely positioned to empower organisations with practical ideas for optimising today’s workplace while also providing an important voice for employees, including frontline and hourly workers. Founded in 2007, a hallmark of The Workforce Institute's research and education—including books, podcasts, surveys, blogs, and its annual list of workplace predictions—is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the interests of organisations to manage absenteeism, fight burnout, develop equitable work schedules, and build strong leaders to drive inspired performance. For additional information, visit www.workforceinstitute.org and join the conversation at @WF_Institute.


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Survey Methodology:

​​This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Workforce Institute at UKG from January 19-21, 2021 among 1,007 employed U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].