Super Bowl Survey: Will We See a Spike in Absenteeism?

Millions of U.S. workers will be tuning into the Super Bowl this Sunday. But how many will be at work the next day?

After a brief timeout, The Workforce Institute’s long-running Super Bowl survey returns with a look at how the big game impacts employee absenteeism in the U.S. workplace. We’ve covered this topic in depth since 2005, because we want to help organizations avoid being blindsided by the results.

For our latest survey, we teamed with The Harris Poll to ask 1,270 U.S. workers about their day-of plans for Super Bowl Sunday, as well as whether they’ll report to work on Monday, schedule time off, or just not show up at all (i.e., “ghost” their employers).

Will organizations see a spike in employee absenteeism this year, or at least a dip in postgame productivity? Here are some key stats from our 2023 Super Bowl survey:

  • Questionable for Monday: Roughly 1 in 5 employed Americans say they will report to work late or plan to miss work entirely Monday after the Super Bowl. When adjusted for the entire U.S. employed population, that’s an estimated 26.6 million workers potentially out of action!

  • Distracted by the fanfare: An estimated 21.9 million U.S. employees say they will be working on Super Bowl Sunday, but still plan to watch at least some of the game during work hours.

  • After reviewing the plays: Nearly a third of employed Americans (32%) say they will talk about the Super Bowl with coworkers during work hours. Whether it’s the game, the halftime show, or the commercials, people will be sharing their analysis — and 33% think they’ll be generally less productive at work because of it.

Come Monday, workplace performance is likely to take a hit, especially among fans cheering on this year’s conference champions: 44% of Kansas City Chiefs fans and 43% of Philadelphia Eagles fans surveyed say they’ll be distracted from work by Super Bowl postgame highlights and conversations with coworkers.

Who’s Going to Disney World?

So, millions of employees are likely to chat with their coworkers at work about the game on Monday — that is, if they make it into work at all.

According to our survey, 3.1 million U.S. employees will land on a metaphorical injured-reserve list after the big game, despite actually not being sick. Not only that, 4.7 million workers admit they plan to ghost their employer and skip work entirely without notice. Meanwhile, 9.4 million people say it’ll be a game-day decision whether they report to work on Monday.

From these survey results, we can see a significant gap in manager-employee trust and transparency forming. Millions of employees are OK with ghosting their employers after the Super Bowl — maybe they’re going to Disney World? — and over a third of U.S. employees (35%) say they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking their managers for time off the day after the Super Bowl. Even more telling, 1 in 10 even believe they’d be reprimanded by management and possibly put on probation at work just for asking for time off.

There should be no penalty for employees requesting or taking time off, especially when it’s planned. If workers are feeling too afraid to chat with their managers about being out, there are likely large cracks in the culture foundation. Managers, too, aren’t having enough pep talks with their people. In our survey, only 14% of managers said their managers have proactively reached out about time off around the Super Bowl.

Perhaps it’s time for a coach’s challenge. If you’re wondering how to build a more transparent culture, here’s how to get the ball moving:

  • Start the conversation early: Managers should ask employees outright whether they’re planning to miss work due to the Super Bowl, especially if their roles enable them to swap shifts with coworkers. Knowing who’s out in advance allows managers to fill holes in the schedule and minimize impact to the flow of work.

  • Check in with younger employees: From our survey, people aged 18 to 34 are more likely than any other age group to say they’ll miss work on Monday after the Super Bowl (25% vs. 17% nationally). They’re also more likely to ghost their employer vs. talking to their manager about missing work (6% vs. 3% nationally).

  • If time off around the Super Bowl isn’t feasible in your industry, encourage people to take off another time: More than 2 out of every 5 employees (42%) think the day after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday (more on that soon). However, another recent study from The Workforce Institute found 14% of employees rarely or never take time off in general. Addressing this imbalance, empowering people to live less stressful lives, and encouraging them to take time so they come back rested are all critical plays for the prolonged health and success of your team. 

Are You Ready for Some Time Off?

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but a significant slice of the U.S. workforce considers the Super Bowl worthy of its own prestigious observation. As mentioned above, nearly half of the country’s workforce is rooting for an extra bye. This year, the Presidents Day U.S. holiday falls eight days after the Super Bowl, on February 20. It’s getting closer, but it’s still yards away.

Will we see a Super Bowl holiday in the United States one day? The odds don’t favor a change, but that won’t stop millions of workers from betting on the longshot. Regardless of an official ruling, it’s up to organizations to adequately prepare for employees taking time off — on Super Bowl Sunday, the Monday after, or any other day of the year for that matter.

If you’re drafting a playbook for your team, we covered time-off strategies for The Workforce Institute Weigh-In last year. Check out the aptly titled feature, “Tackling the Trials and Tribulations of Time Off,” as well as a follow-up from our advisory board member (not of “Monday Night Football” fame) Dennis Miller, who provided his extended thoughts on managing employees’ time off.

Over on the People Purpose Blog at UKG, our friend Chas Fields, co-host of the People Purpose Podcast, shares a memorable Super Bowl story and three best practices for supporting employees and business continuity around the big game.