Alarming headlines that upset and distract workers come at a cost. By one estimate, the time workers spend reading and discussing events on the job costs U.S. companies $43.6 million per minute.
The tally is based on an analysis released Wednesday by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which used data from the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to arrive at its findings. It estimates Americans spend at least 19.2 minutes a day reading news.
The findings use the results of a Nielsen study published in 2016 on the number of Americans who read news to estimate 96.6 million workers do so. With the average hourly wage at $26.92 in May, Challenger calculates employers stand to lose $832.5 million for every 19.2 minutes spent on bad news.
If an especially hard-hitting story is dominating headlines for a week, the figure could reach $4.2 billion.
"Americans have been inundated with polarizing news for over two years, including manipulative and inaccurate news that proliferated on social media during the most recent presidential campaign," Andrew Challenger, vice president of global outplacement and executive coaching at the firm, said in a release.
", replete with images and audio of children crying for their parents, is especially distressing," he added.
"Even with a -- by most accounts -- healthy economy, it's unlikely all these messages, many of which are specifically designed to divide us, are not impacting to some extent the emotional well-being and, potentially, productivity of many workers," noted Challenger.
A 2014 study by the Université de Montréal found that females reading negative news produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while a 2017 survey from the American Psychological Association found 63 percent of Americans viewed the nation's future to be a very or somewhat significant source of stress.