Monday’s total solar eclipse was the first celestial event of its kind in the contiguous US since 1979 — and people everywhere put the world on hold to catch a glimpse of it through special eclipse glasses or other indirect viewing contraptions.
Depending on your location, the prime eclipse viewing time frame was anywhere between 9am PST and 4pm EST — meaning that ideal viewing time landed squarely within the traditional workday. Because of the millions of Americans who watched the NASA livestream or ducked out to see it in person, it’s estimated that American employers lost almost $700 million in output to this otherwise not work-related celestial wonder.
Though seemingly an isolated incident, this kind of massive, aggregate productivity loss thanks to various cultural phenomena is not uncommon, and businesses everywhere grapple with how to adequately address it. Here are a few more examples:
Fantasy football costs American employers $13.4 billion
Outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that nearly 31 million people in the US played fantasy football in 2014, and that the inevitable fantasy lineup research, drafting, trading (etc.) that occurs during the 15-week season costs employers over $13 billion in lost productivity.
March Madness costs $1.3 billion per hour
In addition to fantasy football, Challenger, Gray & Christmas similarly examine the potential effects of March Madness on the workplace, estimating that approximately 51 million workers join office pools during March, amounting to about $1.3 billion lost to slacking employees per hour of distraction.
Amazon Prime Day cost roughly $10 billion
According to CNBC, the rough estimate of productivity lost thanks to those slyly perusing Amazon at work for a good Prime Day deal was about $10 billion. With 85 million people already on Amazon Prime (not counting the many that sign up for Prime services just for this day), and 78 percent of those people admitting they’d consider shopping deals on Prime Day at work, this estimate seems on point (if not potentially low).
Facebook aggregately costs $3.5 trillion in lost productivity
Though not an isolated event, Facebook productivity loss estimates were so prolific that we had to include them. With 1.6 billion monthly active users that spend a total number of 10.5 billion minutes per day on the social networking site, Facebook is certainly an area of concern in terms of productivity. While it’s difficult to know exactly how many Facebook hours are spent on company time, it’s estimated that, since 2008, Facebook has occupied enough time to cost more than $3 trillion in hypothetical labor.
When it comes to these kinds of cultural phenomena — particularly widely-popular national and international events — attempts to limit or prevent participation on company time can come across as punitive and heavy-handed. Instead of viewing them purely as a productivity drain, reframe these events as possible mediums for culture-building and employee morale improvement. By allowing a certain amount of recreation in the workplace, you enable employee bonding and friendship, improve job satisfaction, show your employees you care, and ultimately incentivize people to work harder.