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On Super Bowl Monday, 17 million workers are expected to call in 'sick'

A general view of the Vince Lombardi trophy, a Los Angeles Rams and a New England Patriots helmet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Rams player the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

More than 100 million people are expected to tune in Sunday, Feb. 3, to the Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, noshing on too much food, drinking too much beer, and staying up too late to see the late-night ads that run in the fourth quarter.

Then on Monday, more than 17 million of them plan to stay home from work.

That's according to a survey commissioned by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated, a software company that helps companies with human resources management. It surveyed 1,107 U.S. adults and estimates, based on extrapolations of U.S. workforce data, that some 17.2 million people could skip work as a result, a figure that eclipses the absences it estimated would occur in 2018 or 2016. In fact, that's the highest number in the five or six times it's run the survey since 2005.

It's known as the "Super Bowl Fever," the "Super Sick Monday" or even "Smunday," as Kraft called it in a 2017 publicity move, when it gave employees the Monday after the Super Bowl off and started a petition trying to make it a national holiday. And whether the effect of the big game on Monday morning really is to turn corporate cube farms into ghost towns, there are signs of a real productivity hit.

"I'm a former corporate recruiter, and the Monday after the Super Bowl there were always more notable absences," said Vicki Salemi, the careers expert at job site Monster.com, which also ran a recent small survey of hiring managers, recruiters and job seekers and found that 12 percent said they'd called in sick the day after the Super Bowl to recover from celebrating.

The cost of productivity loss could top $4 billion, according to an estimate by the outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That includes time people spend gabbing about Tom Brady's performance on the field, combined with those who do choose to stay home from work.

And last week, a survey of some 2,800 senior managers and 1,000 U.S. employees by the staffing firm OfficeTeam found that more than half of them knew someone who'd skipped work after a major sporting event. In its survey last year, 72 percent of the H.R. managers surveyed said they thought the post-Super Bowl Monday should be a holiday.

Such surveys aren't always nationally representative - and are commissioned by companies that sell staffing services or H.R. software products - but still provide a little snapshot of the Monday-after effect of the Big Game. They say a strong economy could be making it worse.

"The Super Bowl itself has become a de facto national event," said Joyce Maroney, executive director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos. "Employees may be feeling more secure in their employment and are more likely to have other options, and think it isn't going to be a deal breaker if they call in sick."

Interestingly, Kronos's survey also found senior managers were more likely (36 percent) in its survey to say they wouldn't work normal hours on the Monday after the Super Bowl, compared to just 20 percent of more junior and mid-level employees. "That says something about trust, and who's empowered to do what in the workplace," Maroney said.

The survey also found that more bosses have a sense of humor about the topic than one might thing: Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of the executives in Kronos' study said they they think it's funny when co-workers call out sick the day after the big game.

Some bosses who've had to clamp down on Monday absences say that's the best way to deal with the issue - a sense of humor. Shawn Anderson, who runs a nearly 50-person tech firm called PDQ.com in Salt Lake City, has had to say something to employees who tried to make the most of the four-day work week schedule he offers.

"Usually before a long weekend, I'll say 'go have a blast but please watch out for vodka virus or the Super Bowl bug or the Budweiser flu,' " he said, noting he might mention it lightly before going into Super Bowl weekend. "There's a lot of sarcasm and joking in this."

This article was written by Jena McGregor, a reporter for The Washington Post.

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