Worker productivity was low on Monday, and most employers seemed OK with that.
There was so much excitement over the eclipse that companies across the Puget Sound region did something unusual: They encouraged their employees to walk off the job for a bit Monday morning.
The eclipse led to millions of dollars in lost productivity. But unlike, say, workers sneakily watching March Madness games when they should be working, local bosses deemed it worth the expense.
In Bellevue, tech company Apptio made eclipse glass for its employees and had a viewing party outside its office. About 200 people — more than half the office — went outside and looked up at the sun for a 45-minute break from work.
In South Lake Union, so many Amazon employees went outside their offices that it was tough to get through the sidewalk. At the University of Washington, the Seattle Molecular & Cellular Biology Program posted a sign saying it was “closed for science.” Boeing workers took breaks from their shifts, too — after coordinating with their supervisors.
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At Zillow in downtown Seattle, CEO Spencer Rascoff sent a note to staffers in their Slack channel saying he hoped everyone could take a break and scope out the eclipse. Their rooftop deck was a popular viewing spot.
Down at BitTitan in Kirkland, eight out of 140 employees took off for Oregon to see the eclipse in its totality. The company let employees come in late to check out the view from their apartment roof decks, and others strolled down to Lake Washington to check it out from the shore.
The eclipse cost employers up to $694 million in lost productivity nationwide, assuming everyone scheduled to work stepped out for about 20 minutes, according to an estimate by the job assistance firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s less than the impact from longer daytime events that distract people while they’re supposed to be working, like March Madness, Amazon Prime Day or the recent testimony before Congress by former FBI director James Comey.
We did a little overly simplistic math of our own. The Seattle metro area has about 1.87 million workers making an average of $29.41 an hour. If you take the extreme liberty of assuming they were all working Monday morning and stepped out for 20 minutes, that’s about $18.3 million in lost productivity.
That amounts to about 0.006 percent of the region’s annual GDP. Our economy will survive.
The bigger impact would be for businesses that rely on appointments.
Victoria Hunt’s fitness business, Vivacity Movement and Health, holds classes every day for Microsoft employees at the company’s Redmond’s campus. On Monday, most of her clients skipped their session.
Still, three out of about a dozen people showed up at her 7 a.m. class and two out of eight people came to the 11 o’clock. Her 10 a.m. class did take a break to go watch the eclipse. “It was a little anticlimactic,” she said.