What ‘Super Bowl Monday’ callouts could say about trust in the workplace

While the big question in football lovers’ minds this weekend was which team will take home the big win—the Kansas City Chiefs were ultimately victorious over the Philadelphia Eagles—business leaders likely had another thing on their mind: Who’s showing up to work on Monday?

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According to new research from the Workforce Institute at UKG, not everyone.

The firm has been tracking Super Bowl Monday workplace trends since 2005 and, this year, based on the survey of nearly 1,300 U.S. workers, it projects a record 18.8 million Americans plan to miss work the day after the big game. Combined with the 7.8 million who plan to report late, that amounts to about one in every five Americans missing at least part of their workday on Monday.

Why the spike?

Jarik Conrad, vice president, human insights and executive director, Workforce Institute, says the shift in modern work arrangements—particularly the rise in hybrid and remote settings—has given employees more authority over their schedules.

“People are more fluid about where and when they work, which means they’re opting for Monday to be an unofficial holiday—something they couldn’t chose to do before,” Conrad says.

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While the predicted rise in absences and late starts doesn’t necessarily reflect a widespread lack of engagement, he says, how employees plan to handle their time off does.

The Workforce Institute estimates that about 10 million Americans will take a pre-approved day off, but about 4.7 million plan to “ghost” work and 3.1 million will call in sick—even though they’re not. What’s more, the organization predicts nearly 9.5 million people will decide whether they’re showing up on Monday morning.

And for those who were scheduled to work during the game, the organization says more than 17 million planned to fake sick, already took off or didn’t show up for work.

Those arrangements all point to one issue: trust—or a lack thereof between employees and their employers, Conrad says.

In fact, 35% of those polled said they’re uncomfortable asking managers for time off for Super Bowl Monday.

“That isn’t indicative of a healthy, constructive dynamic between workers and their managers,” Conrad says. “This is what we have to fix—building trust across levels is what solves this phenomenon and the general engagement [issues] we’re seeing in the workplace.”

See also: 2 keys to stopping the Great Resignation? Flexibility and trust

To do that, the Workforce Institute encourages employers to be proactive: Ask workers before big callout days like Super Bowl Monday what their plans are—that opens up lines of communication and, logistically, helps managers prepare. Encouraging workers to take time off throughout the year and offering opportunities for healthy work/life balance can also drive more trusting relationships.

Conrad notes that no matter where or how employees work—60% of American employees are frontline workers, for instance—managers need to center trust, and lead with empathy if they want both back in return.

“Remote managers might have to focus more on finding ways to connect with their people than in-person leaders do,” he says, “but the core skills required to build trust are the same: being a vulnerable, authentic leader. That’s foundational to being a great leader in the workplace today.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].