Solar Eclipse Could Cost US Nearly $700 Million in Lost Productivity

The total solar eclipse of 2017 could cost U.S. companies nearly $700 million in lost productivity on Monday (Aug. 21) when workers pause to watch the moon block the sun.

Based an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the worker outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. estimates that employers could lose as much as $694 million because of the solar eclipse, which occurs during a workday, company representatives said in a statement.

Challenger arrived at its cost estimate by using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 American Time Use Survey. The company used survey data for the country’s average hourly wage data and number of full-time employed workers age 16 and higher to calculate what the lost productivity on solar eclipse day would cost if workers took 20 minutes out of their day to observe the total solar eclipse.

Andrew Challenger, vice president of the Chicago-based company, told NBC News that he estimates 87 million workers across the country will take a break to see the solar eclipse. But in the grand scheme, that potential $694 million in lost productivity isn’t a major hit.

According to NBC News, worker distractions from March Madness can reach up to $615 million per hour as employees take time out to track college basketball games, set up brackets or catch up on game highlights. And there is a benefit to companies that celebrate the eclipse together, Challenger said.

“Since this is happening over the lunch hours, the financial impact is minimal. It offers a great opportunity to boost morale. Employers could offer lunch to their staff, give instructions on how to make viewing devices, and watch together as a team,” Challenger said in his company’s statement.

In fact, Space.com’s parent company Purch is one of the many businesses doing just that.

The roof of our New York City office — the home of Space.com — will be open for employees of our sister sites (and the entire nine-floor building) to observe a partial solar eclipse. At Purch’s headquarters in Ogden, Utah, employees will head outside to experience their own partial eclipse.

“Building in time around lunch to mark the special occasion will encourage employees to interact and have something to be excited about,” Challenger said in the statement.

Visit Space.com to see the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, with a live webcast from NASA beginning at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT).

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