Distractions at work can lead to lost productivity, which translates into an expense for employers
You can say one thing about Challenger, Gray & Christmas: for a company with such a festive component to their name, they sure know how to ruin a party.
Over the past year or so, the outplacement firms researchers have given employers all sorts of reasons to dread any events that rivets the nation. For example, the firm reported that last years NCAA tournament and Super Bowl would cost employers $2.3bn and $3 bn, respectively in lost employee productivity.
They took the fun out of the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi by revealing that the distractions caused by the movie would come at a billion-dollar expense to businesses. They attacked the Chicago Cubs postseason run last year by warning local employers that their people would be watching the game and not doing work to the tune of $24m. They even questioned the fun we had with science in 2017 when they reported that all those people running from their desks to enjoy the solar eclipse came at a $700m expense to their employers.
It should come as no surprise that the extraordinary goings-on in Washington last week would catch their attention. Challenger, Gray & Christmass researchers have calculated that the Brett Kavanaugh supreme court nomination testimony is so distracting to our employees that it could cost US employers as much as $1.76bn in lost productivity.
The calculation goes like this: Assume that the average hourly wage of an employee is $25.39 and that there are more than 90 million employees who use the internet to do their jobs both figures that come from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The firm estimates, given past research, that about 74 million employees (82%) were at work this past Thursday, the day that both Kavanaugh and his accuser Dr Christine Blasey Ford gave testimony.
The firm also estimates that 94% of those employees are also interested in politics/likely to watch or follow updates on the hearing, which translates into more than 69 million employees that were paying attention to the drama and not to their jobs. If each of them spent just an hour watching, reading, discussing or otherwise ignoring work as a result, then the total value of that lost time was about $1.76bn. See?
So should we, as employers, be alarmed? Upset? Angry? Maybe at the behavior of our elected officials and other leaders in Washington, but not at these numbers or our employees.
For starters, the cost to an individual business in potential lost productivity isnt really that much maybe just a few hundred bucks when you consider there are about eight million companies that employ people in this country or that a loss of 10-15 hours of employee productivity at a $25 per hour average wage isnt so uncommon. Particularly when you consider the amount of time that people already spend chit-chatting, gossiping and catching up with each other during the course of the day.
More importantly, this kind of thing though not at all fun for people such as Ford and others involved does serve as yet another pop culture distraction and is no different than the NCAA tournament, the Super Bowl or a Star Wars release. Sordid and upsetting as this soap opera is, its still entertainment and provides our employees welcome relief from their daily tasks and at pretty much the same cost as bringing in pizza or having a company happy hour. Yes, this is what the world has come to.
So as long as there are events like this and there will always be events like this our employees will be distracted and productivity will be lost. Its just another cost of doing business in the 21st century.
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