Is Your Workplace Looking Empty the Morning After the Super Bowl?

Nearly 3 in 4 HR managers think the Monday following the game should be a paid national holiday

Dana Wilkie By Dana Wilkie February 5, 2018
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​In a Mucinex commercial that aired last night during the Super Bowl, a young man in his bathrobe speaks hoarsely into the phone: "Yeah, I got this … uh … thing," he says, coughing into his arm. "And I'm not gonna make it to work today."

Up walks a slimy green blob representing "Mr. Mucus," who gasps: "You aren't really sick. You were just up late watching the game. You faker!"

Across the screen flashes this warning: "#SuperSickMonday is coming."

An estimated 14 million U.S. workers were expected to call in ill this morning because they watched the Super Bowl showdown between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. And that number might be higher if workers chased that by watching a much-anticipated and emotional episode of the hit TV show "This is Us." The episode, which aired immediately after the Super Bowl, promised to reveal the tragic fate of the show's beloved Jack Pearson.

Could that powerful lineup  be the final push the nation needs to make the post-game Monday a paid holiday?

Probably not, HR experts say. But employers, they say, should embrace the game and the show—and even tolerate Monday absences—as a way to plan for absences and build workplace camaraderie.

"We've been researching the big game's effect on the workforce for more than a decade and, while numbers may fluctuate each year, one clear fact remains: #SuperSickMonday is often the [most popular] day in America for calling out of work," said Joyce Maroney, executive director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated, which provides workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. "Rather than pretending the phenomenon doesn't exist … encourage managers to set the example and have open conversations about the game—making discipline a nonissue. Employees shouldn't feel scared to say, 'Hey, I'm hosting a Super Bowl party this year, so I'd love to come in at noon the following Monday, if possible.' Talking about these plans openly in the office, and well ahead of time, gives organizations the time and bandwidth to properly plan."

William Becker is an associate professor at Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business who specializes in workplace emotion and turnover. In his research, he finds that many workers often don't feel connected to their companies in part because they think their employers care only about productivity and profits.

 "I don't think there is much you can do to engage employees who are extremely tired or hung over [following Sunday's events] so taking a hard line will only get you 50 percent of their capabilities at best and send a bad message to your employees," Becker said. "I would argue that embracing the [events] and making it fun and giving employees flexibility on Monday would do a lot to win employees over."

Most HR Managers Like the Idea of a National Holiday

Nearly 3 in 4 HR managers (72 percent) say that the day after the Super Bowl should be a national paid holiday, according to a Jan. 25 survey by staffing firm OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company based in Menlo Park, Calif.

More than one-quarter of employees (27 percent) admitted they've called in sick or made an excuse for skipping work following a major sporting event, such as the Super Bowl, NBA Finals or World Series. Nearly one-third of professionals (32 percent) have been tardy to the office the day after watching a big game.

"Allowing a little leeway in the morning could help," said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. "Most managers don't have the time to sleuth around to confirm if an employee is truly under the weather. Employers may consider turning a blind eye if workers show up a little late Monday morning. Good employees will still get their work done, even if their hours are slightly shifted. HR managers and company leaders are regular people like the rest of us and likely [took] part in Sunday's events, too. So they understand how coming in the day after the Super Bowl can make for a tired and less productive Monday."

Should the Monday after a Super Bowl ever become a holiday, Britton said, managers can plan for the workflow disruption in the same way they do for other days off.

"When they know a holiday or vacation time is coming up, companies and workers typically plan in advance so projects still stay on track, so it would be a similar situation if the Monday after Super Bowl were an official holiday," she said.  

[SHRM members-only policies: Leave Policy: Leave Request Procedure]

Calls for Super Bowl Monday to be a national holiday are nothing new.

"Everyone from fantasy football companies to Heinz Ketchup to Ohio Gov. John Kasich have made pushes and even formal petitions for a day off," Maroney said. "In reality it would be really difficult for organizations to implement. That's why it's important for companies to embrace—not ignore—big events while being clear and transparent about time-off policies. More and more companies are exploring flex time options or implementing unlimited time-off policies, like we have at Kronos, which allow employees to take time off for things that matter to them."

If the Monday did become a holiday, Becker noted, "I wonder if there will come a time when the NFL loses its luster, and we could be stuck with a national holiday. There are also probably many industries and areas that don't care about the Super Bowl. Maybe the NFL should move the game to Saturday, which would be a much more efficient solution."

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