Published January 27, 2021

In a strange NFL season with postponed games, fan-less stadiums, COVID cases, and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Championship, the Bucs will host the Kansas City Chiefs at their own stadium on February 7th. The distraction of the big game is likely more than welcome to hundreds of millions of Americans, football fans or not, according to one workplace authority.

“Nearly 9 million fewer Americans have jobs now than during the Super Bowl last year. Record numbers are filing initial unemployment claims every week, and 2.4 million more people want jobs now versus this time last year. This is on top of the extreme pandemic fatigue and subsequent burnout, especially for employed people who are now caring for parents and children full time. The mental strain on Americans is overwhelming,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Challenger estimates this year’s Super Bowl could cost employers nearly $6.1 billion in lost productivity in the week leading up to the game, as well as from employees missing work on the following Monday. (related: Super Bowl 2020 Could Cost Employers $5.1B)

According to a 2020 survey conducted by The Workforce Institute at Kronos, 17.5 million Americans reported they were likely not going to work on the Monday after the Super Bowl. Challenger used this number in its 2021 Super Bowl productivity estimate.

Challenger expects more viewers of the big game this year than in recent years. In 2015, Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks was the highest-rated Super Bowl in history, with 114.4 million viewers. Challenger predicts 114 million viewers will tune in to watch all or part of Super Bowl LV.

Highlights from 2020 Super Bowl Data

“Last year’s match-up between the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers saw 103.5 million viewers, up from 98.2 million the prior year. This year’s game has very little competition since so many people are staying home due to the pandemic and new content can be hard to come by,” he added.

According to the American Time Use Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2017-2018, 57% of workers had a flexible work arrangement. Challenger estimates the 43% of those who do not have a flexible work arrangement will miss an hour of work on Super Bowl Monday.

Challenger estimates that interested workers will spend at least ten minutes each day leading up to the Super Bowl discussing the game, managing office pools, and/or researching the two teams and their players. With an estimated 114 million Americans tuning into the game, based on 2015 Nielsen ratings, and applying the employment-population ratio of 57.4%, 65.4 million Americans will likely discuss the game each day, for an estimated loss of $1.6 billion over the five days leading up to the game.

Using the Workforce Institute at Kronos figure of 17.5 million workers missing 6.94 hours of work on Monday, the average daily hours worked according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, multiplied by the average hourly wage of $29.81 in December 2020, results in $3.6 billion in lost productivity. Add 43% of the 65 million workers likely watching the Super Bowl coming in one hour late or leaving one hour early with the average hourly wage, and that figure increases to $4.5 billion.

Employers Should Give Workers a Pass

“Americans need a happy distraction right now. There is so much frustration with the vaccine rollout, lack of jobs, and no clear plan for schools reopening. A shared experience could help boost morale,” said Challenger. 

“Absences were at a record high in 2020, up 45% from the previous year, according to BLS data. Most of this was due to child care concerns and quarantines from possible COVID exposure. Absences due to workers being up late watching the game on Zoom or in outdoor hangouts with friends is certainly preferable,” he added.

While the losses may seem extreme, it likely will not impact any individual company or the economy as a whole in a significant way. 

“Employers can use the game as a touch point with their remote teams, perhaps setting up virtual office pools or watch parties. Companies could send a ‘game day gift basket’ with branded snacks or decorations,” said Challenger.

“Workers are facing real burnout as we approach the end of the first month of 2021. Let your workers know they can use this experience as a way to blow off some steam and reconnect with each other,” he added.


Contact Colleen Madden Blumenfeld for more data or to set up an interview with SVP Andy Challenger.

Contact Challenger for Media Inquiries


Super Bowl Productivity by the Numbers


Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Estimated employed Super Bowl viewers: 65,436,000 Americans 

Based on Challenger’s viewership estimate of 114,000,000 with the current employment-population ratio of 57.4% applied. 

Average hourly earnings: $29.81

According to December 2020 preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average daily hours worked: 6.94 hours

According to December 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Percentage of workers who have a flexible schedule: 57%

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey 2017-2018.

Estimated absences on Monday due to the Super Bowl: 17,500,000

Based on a 2020 Workforce Institute at Kronos survey. 

In other words, employers lose an average of $4.96 per employee for every ten minutes of work time wasted discussing the Super Bowl, managing virtual office pools, or planning virtual Super Bowl parties, etc.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Super Bowl Monday impact: $4,459,202,779

Based on the 17,500,000 estimated absences with the average daily hours worked (6.94 hours) at the average hourly wage ($29.81) +  43% of employed NFL fans who do not have a flexible schedule missing an hour of work at the average hourly wage on Monday.

Super Bowl week impact: $1,622,812,800

Based on the 65,436,000 employed NFL viewers distracted for ten minutes each work day before the Super Bowl. 

TOTAL IMPACT: $ 6,082,015,579

(Super Bowl Monday impact + Super Bowl week impact).


Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Download 2021 Super Bowl Productivity Loss Report