The Big Game Brings a Big Spike in Employees Sidestepping Work

Three men cheering and celebrating enthusiastically on a couch. The man in the center is holding football.

Super Bowl LVIII is officially set for Sunday, February 11, with the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, battling the San Francisco 49ers live in Las Vegas, in a rematch from 2020. America will no doubt be ready for some football—but are companies ready for some employee absences, come Monday morning? 
An estimated 16.1 million U.S. employees plan to miss work the day after the big game, including over 6 million people who will risk a workplace penalty for faking sick or “ghosting” work altogether and not showing up. That’s according to new research conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the UKG Workforce Institute, which has tracked this U.S. phenomenon for nearly two decades. 

Cases of the so-called “Super Bowl Flu” emerge annually across America, with 14.5 million employed adults in the U.S. admitting they’ve called in sick to work when they weren’t actually sick on the Monday after the Super Bowl—including over 1 in 10 people managers (11%).

There is some good news, though. The number of anticipated Super Bowl Monday absences for 2024 is down slightly from last year, when 18.8 million employees said they planned to miss work. Another positive development for 2024 is about 10 million U.S. employees have requested the day off in advance, which helps their managers and companies better prepare for the game-related absences. 

Still, this isn’t the time for excessive celebrations. Despite the lower absentee numbers, 6.4 million people also plan to go into work late, another 11.2 million employees say they’re “not sure” whether they’ll miss work, and an additional 6.4 million workers will decide at the last minute what to do.
These results underline the need for people leaders to chat with employees early about their Super Bowl time-off plans, to avoid leaving large holes in team coverage across America on Monday morning.

The Key Survey Stats 

  • About 14% of U.S. employees—that’s an estimated 22.5 million people—plan to miss at least some work on Monday following the big game. This includes 1 in 5 people managers. 
  • For those scheduled to work Super Bowl Sunday itself, 3.2 million people plan to call in sick or just not show up to work so they can watch the game instead. 
  • More than a quarter of all U.S. employees (28%)—or roughly 45.1 million people—say they’ll be less productive than usual at work on Monday after the Super Bowl this year.  

Why People Will Watch 

More than 100 million people tuned into the big game last year. While it’s clear millions of people will be watching again this year, what’s driving the excitement in 2024? We asked respondents why they plan to catch the big game. With some people selecting more than one reason, the UKG survey found:

  • 55% are football fans
  • 40% enjoy the halftime show
  • 39% watch for the commercials
  • 21% are attending a watch party
  • 9% have FOMO (fear of missing out) on next-day office talk

And, as the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce takes the field, don’t forget about the Swifties: 7%—an estimated 11.2 million people—are hoping for a Taylor Swift sighting during the game. (Note: We fielded our survey prior to the Chiefs winning the AFC Championship and earning a trip to Super Bowl LVIII, so the actual percentage of excited Swifties is likely much higher now.)

A Call for More Open Communication at Work

No matter which football team or pop-music icon you’re supporting this year, one standout play we should always cheer for is creating a great place to work. That starts with fostering more open communication and trust in the workplace.

As team captains and coaches, people managers must lead by example, especially if they plan to miss work after the Super Bowl, too. According to the UKG survey:

  • At least 1 in 5 managers (20%) plan to miss some time on Monday because of the game. 
  • Just 5% of managers say they plan to personally notify their team of their own game-related absence.
  • While 49% of managers say they plan to ask their employees directly about their time-off plans for the Super Bowl, only 7% of U.S. employees say their manager has actively reached out to see if they were planning to take the day off or come in late the Monday after the big game this year.

Moreover, the UKG survey found that 7% of U.S. employees (about 11.2 million employees)—and even 10% of people managers themselves—say they’d be reprimanded by management if they asked to miss work on the Monday after the big game.

How to Develop a Winning Game Plan

Everyone, from the frontline to the C-suite, has a life outside work. Every employee deserves to take time off when needed, and without having to risk a penalty or, worse, getting sacked by their employer by skipping work.

Managers should talk with their teams about taking time off, plan ahead for absences, and schedule employees accordingly to avoid any holes in coverage. Remember that it’s OK to lean on assistant coaches—there are plenty of tools and technology to help simplify scheduling, facilitate easy shift-swapping among employees, and even assist managers in starting these impactful conversations.

Championship teams are a lot like successful organizations—both rely on teamwork, and both are built on open communication and trust. Even if you’re not competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, fostering a great place to work for all people can help lead you to victory.

For more tips on building a winning workplace culture for your team, download the UKG + Great Place To Work Culture Playbook.

Read the full press release to see all of the "Super Bowl FLu" survey results.