Human Capital & Careers

Baseball Fever: Companies Catch It

Productivity takes a hit from the playoffs; while the hometown team is in it, many workers will be out of it.
Marie LeoneOctober 4, 2005

When St. Louis Cardinal ace Chris Carpenter (21-5; 2.83 ERA) fired his first pitch on Tuesday afternoon, it marked the start of Major League Baseball’s postseason — and an annual slowdown in worker productivity, according to a new study.

In fact, if employees spend just 30 minutes tuning in to the three divisional playoff games on a given day (via radio, television, or the Web), the cumulative effect will be $225 million in lost productivity, estimates outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

The companies that will experience the greatest slump, of course, will be those with teams in the playoffs: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, and St. Louis. At least five divisional-series games will start during business hours, which could lead to unscheduled absences, early departures, “or at the very least, a significant workday distraction,” according to the outplacement firm’s chief executive officer, John Challenger.

For companies with Yankees lovers (or haters), the morning after may be the problem — whether they win or lose. New York’s away game on Wednesday, at Los Angeles, doesn’t start until 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Fans who stay up till the end will have first-hand experience of the often-discussed “day game after a night game” loss of productivity.

Challenger Gray based its calculations on the average hourly wages in each playoff city, multiplied by the number of workers, to determine the cumulative loss. “A little downtime” — — even three hours’ worth — is unlikely to register as much more than a blip on the economic radar of these metropolitan areas, says John Challenger; all are in the top 25 in terms of gross metropolitan product. Even so, finance executives in playoff cities might wait until the end of the Fall Classic before going all out on the Winter Classic — budget season.