Bad Thinking on Productivity and the SuperBowl

This kind of thinking is just plain wrong.

Two out of every five working Americans watch the Super Bowl each year. Many of them also bet on it through football pools, go to Sunday night parties and chat about the game with co-workers.

All this football revelry is costing companies money–up to $820 million in lost wages, according to a report released Thursday by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

According to Challenger, football fans that spend an estimated ten minutes talking about the upcoming game cost employers an average $2.59 per worker. Because office chatter about the Super Bowl and office pools is likely greatest in the five business days leading up to the game and the Monday after, it actually costs $15.54 per employee over the six days, estimates Challenger. Assuming that all 52.9 million working Americans who watch the game also talk about it at work, the total bill would be $821.4 million.

This is pedantic, linear, zero-sum thinking at it's best. There is an assumption here that if people weren't working they would be contributing to the company, but human beings (most of us, anyway) can't just work and work and work and work. We all have days when we are much more productive because we feel good, are well rested, in a positive mood, or something like that. To think that there is some static rate of productivity and that 10 minutes of talking about football is basically stealing from that work rate is just wrong. I think things like this boost morale, foster bonds between co-workers and improve productivity at other times by giving people some rest and camaraderie.

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